Sentinel lymph node dissection in breast cancer


  • A. Bembenek
  • T. Reuhl
  • J. Markwardt
  • U. Schneider
  • P.M. Schlag


  • Swiss Surgery


  • Swiss Surg 5 (5): 217-221


  • During the last years, the efficacy and reliability of the sentinel lymph node biopsy (snb) as a minimal invasive diagnostic procedure for the nodal status has been intensively evaluated. After the widespread clinical use in the staging of melanoma patients the snb is currently introduced in the clinical management of breast cancer patients. We present our experience with this method during 3, 5 years and discuss its potential and pitfalls. From 11/95 to 3/99 we performed sentinel node detection in 146 patients with breast cancer stage I to III, consisting of 127 patients with pT1/2-tumors and 19 patients with pT3/4-tumors. We used the radionuclid method including preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and intraoperative gamma-probe detection. The detection rate varied with the tumor size between 94% for tumors with a diameter < 1 cm, 85% (1-3 cm), 70% (3-5 cm) and 63% (> 5 cm). The accuracy of the snb in the prediction of the nodal status changed also with the tumor diameter between 100% for very small tumors (< 1 cm), 97% (1-3 cm), 88% (3-5 cm) and 67% (> 5 cm). In the subgroup of patients restricted to T1-2-tumors (n = 106). 57 patients (53%) showed true negative snb. 38 patients (36%) revealed tumor cells in the H&E-staining and an additional 7 patients (7%) solely in the immunohistochemical staining. 4 (4%) of these patients, all of them from the first half of the study period, underwent false-negative snb, 3 of them showing lymphangiosis carcinomatosa. The presented results show, that snb using the radionuclid method is a reliable method for the evaluation of the nodal status in early breast cancer patients with a tumor size up to ca. 3 cm. Therefore the sn procedure should be restricted to small tumors with clinically uninvolved axillary nodes or patients with a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to rule out invasiveness.