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Breast Care (Basel). 2013 Jun;8(3):187-91. doi: 10.1159/000352090.

Axillary Lymph Node Status in Early-Stage Breast Cancer Patients with Sentinel Node Micrometastases (0.2-2 mm).

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Breast Center, Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg, Austria ; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria.
Department of Medical Statistics, Informatics and Health Economics, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria.
Breast Center, Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg, Austria.


in English, German


Omission of axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) is increasingly becoming the new standard of care for patients with sentinel lymph node micrometastases (SNMMs). However, a formidable proportion of patients is afflicted with non-sentinel node (NSN) macrometastatic tumor burden.


Over 1 decade 5,000 patients underwent sentinel node biopsies (SNB) at 2 certified breast cancer centers in Austria. All available cases of SNMM during this time period were reviewed. Clinical, tumor and lymph node parameters were analyzed using univariate and multivariate analysis to retrieve predictors for further NSN involvement.


We identified 216 patients with SNMMs, of whom 181 subsequently underwent ALND. Of the latter patients, 16% (n = 29/181) presented with NSN axillary metastases. ALND revealed NSN macrometastases in 10.5% (n = 19/181) of all the investigated patients, and 66% of the NSN-positive patients (n = 19/29). In 28% (n = 8/29) of the NSN-positive patients, more than 1 macrometastasis was detected. The number of removed sentinel nodes was found to be a significant predictor (p = 0.007) for NSN involvement.


In this retrospective investigation of breast cancer patients with SNMMs, a substantial proportion exhibited involvement of NSNs. Macrometastases accounted for the largest fraction of NSN tumor burden. Refraining from ALND in the face of SNMMs may entail substantial micro- and macrometastatic tumor burden in the remaining axillary lymph node basin.


Biopsy; Breast cancer; Lymph node: dissection, metastases, status; Micrometastases; Risk factors; Sentinel lymph node

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