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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1987 Apr;13(4):475-81.

Management of the axilla in conservatively treated breast cancer: 592 patients treated at Institut Gustave-Roussy.


Between June 1970 and April 1982, 592 patients with unilateral T1 and small T2 breast cancers were managed conservatively at the Institut Gustave-Roussy. The treatment policy for the axilla was to perform a lower axillary dissection and to proceed to axillary clearance ( +/- radiotherapy) in patients with axillary invasion by tumor (N+). Some N+ patients had only lower axillary dissection and radiotherapy. Five hundred fifty-eight patients underwent axillary surgery which was a lower axillary dissection in 374 patients (67%) and axillary clearance in 184 patients (33%). There was axillary invasion in 198 cases (36%). Only five patients relapsed in the axilla and the probability of axillary relapse at 5 years was 1.2%. There were no axillary relapses in N+ patients who had had an axillary clearance whether irradiated or not. The incidence of upper limb complications was significantly greater in patients undergoing axillary surgery and radiotherapy compared with axillary surgery alone (p less than 0.0001). It is concluded that a lower axillary dissection accurately identifies N-patients and an axillary clearance in N+ patients ensures good local control and avoids the morbidity associated with axillary irradiation.

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