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APMIS. 2004 Apr-May;112(4-5):264-70.

Accuracy of axillary staging using sentinel node biopsy or diagnostic axillary lymph node dissection--a case-control study.

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Breast Surgery Unit, Maria Hospital, Lapinlahdenkatu, Helsinki, Finland.


We aimed to compare the accuracy of axillary staging in breast cancer between sentinel node biopsy (SNB) and axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). The prevalence of axillary metastases was studied in 166 breast cancer patients with SNB and pair-matched control patients with ALND. The matching factors included age of the patient and grade, histological type and histological size of the tumour. There were 37% of patients with axillary metastases in the SNB group and 31% in the ALND group. Altogether, 57 pairs were discordant in relation to axillary metastases. In 34 discordant pairs the SNB patient and in 23 the ALND patient had axillary metastases, p=ns. Among the 36 discordant pairs with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), axillary metastases were detected as often in the SNB and the ALND patients. In the 21 discordant pairs with other histological types, the SNB patient had axillary metastases in 16 pairs and the ALND patient in 5 pairs, p<0.03. SNB seems to be as accurate a method for axillary staging as ALND. However, SNB generated no upstaging effect in IDC, only in other histological tumour types.

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