In-Transit Intramammary Sentinel Lymph Nodes From Malignant Melanoma of the Trunk

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Our goal was to determine the incidence and outcomes of intramammary in-transit sentinel lymph nodes (IMSLN) from primary malignant melanoma (MM) of the trunk. We hypothesize that regional metastasis to the breast from anterior trunk MM also occurs via the lymphatic system to these intramammary in-transit sentinel lymph nodes.


MM is the most common solid tumor metastasis to the breast. The mechanism of intramammary (IM) metastasis is generally attributed to hematogenous rather than lymphatic spread.


We retrospectively reviewed medical records from all patients who underwent selective sentinel lymph node dissection at the UCSF Melanoma Center from 1993 to 2008 after the approval of UCSF Committee on Human Research. Of the 1911 cases, we found 614 patients with primary MM located on the trunk, and queried their medical records for in-transit SLN and SLNs in the breast. Data from preoperative lymphoscintigraphy, intraoperative lymphatic mapping, operative notes, and pathology and clinic notes were gathered.


Of the 1911 patients with MM, 169 (8.9%) and 420 (22.0%) had anterior and posterior trunk lesions, respectively, and 25 patients (1.3%) with flank lesions (lateral abdominal wall below the rib cage, above the iliac crest). Of the anterior trunk population, 18 patients had in-transit SLNs. The vast majority of these patients (14 of 18, 77.8%) had in-transit IMSLN. Of patients with posterior trunk melanoma, 27 patients had in-transit nodes with 1 patient having IMSLNs. Of patients with flank melanomas, 3 patients had in-transit nodes with 1 patient having IMSLNs. Interestingly, all patients with IMSLNs had primary lesions located inferior to the breasts. Two of the 16 patients with IMSLNs had micrometastasis to IMSLN; 1 patient died and the other currently is disease free 4 years after initial SLND. Four of the 32 patients with non-IM in-transit nodes had micrometastases to these in-transit nodes. Of all patients with trunk melanomas, 4 patients had micrometastases to axillary SLNs (AxSLNs). Three of the 4 patients with positive AxSLNs also had positive in-transit nodes whereas only half of the patients with positive in-transit SLNs had positive AxSLNs.


IMSLNs exist in the breast. Our results establish an anatomic basis for lymphatic metastasis to the breast from primary cutaneous melanoma mainly from the anterior trunk inferior to the breasts. For anterior trunk melanomas, IMSLNs should not be overlooked during SLND as they may harbor micrometastasis.

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