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Axillary Recurrence after Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Breast Cancer

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Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is routinely performed as an axillary staging procedure for breast cancer. Although the reported false-negative rate approaches 10 per cent, this does not always lead to axillary recurrence. We previously reported an axillary recurrence rate of 1 per cent at a median follow-up of 2 years. Our objective is to determine the rate of axillary recurrence with longer follow-up. A retrospective review of patients with invasive breast cancer and a negative SLNB treated between 2001 and 2005 was performed. Cases where neoadjuvant therapy was used or where isolated tumor cells (ITCs) were found were included, whereas those with fewer than 18 months of follow-up were excluded. One (0.7%) out of 139 patients had an axillary recurrence after a median follow-up of 52 months. No patient who underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy or with ITCs had axillary recurrence. Twelve (8.6%) patients have died, with death attributed to breast cancer in three. Our study demonstrates that axillary recurrence after SLNB remains a rare event after a median follow-up of 52 months, despite including potentially higher risk scenarios such as where neoadjuvant chemotherapy is used and ITCs are found. Therefore, axillary lymph node dissection can safely be avoided in patients where SLNB is negative.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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