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J Am Coll Surg. 1996 Sep;183(3):185-9.

Incidence and predictors of axillary metastasis in T1 carcinoma of the breast.

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Joyce Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center, John Wayne Cancer Institute, Saint John's Hospital and Health Center, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA.



The relatively low incidence (6 to 31 percent) of axillary metastasis in patients with T1 carcinoma of the breast (20 mm or smaller) has led some surgeons to question routine axillary lymphadenectomy (ALND) for patients with no palpable axillary metastases and T1 tumors. This study was undertaken to determine the incidence and predictors of axillary lymph node metastasis in patients with T1 carcinoma of the breast and evaluate the role of sentinel lymphadenectomy (SLND) in this context.


All patients with T1 invasive carcinoma of the breast treated at the John Wayne Cancer Institute between January 1988 and June 1994 were prospectively studied. The study population was comprised of 259 women who had ALND. Of these patients, 114 were part of a pilot study examining the efficacy of SLND.


Of the 259 women, 69 (27 percent) had axillary metastasis. Hematoxylin and eosin staining identified nodal involvement in 13 percent of patients with T1a and T1b tumors (10 mm or less) and in 30 percent of patients with T1c tumors (p = 0.002). Other factors such as age, hormone receptor status, presence of ductal carcinoma in situ, histology, ploidy, and S-phase were not significant predictors of involvement. A sentinel node was identified in 73 patients: this node accurately predicted axillary status in 72 patients, was the only positive node in nine of 16 patients with axillary involvement, and was 100 percent predictive of axillary status when the primary tumor was 10 mm or less. Retrospective immunohistochemical staining revealed an additional seven patients with positive sentinel nodes. With this technique, even T1a lesions had a 15 percent incidence of axillary metastasis.


Tumor size is the only accurate predictor of axillary metastasis in patients with T1 carcinoma of the breast. The significant incidence of axillary involvement from T1 tumors mandates accurate staging, even when the tumor is 10 mm or less in size. Examination of a sentinel lymph node may accurately predict axillary metastasis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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