Predictive factors for the status of non-sentinel nodes in breast cancer patients with tumor positive sentinel nodes

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SummaryIn patients with tumor positive sentinel nodes, axillary lymph node dissection is routinely performed while a majority of these patients have no tumor involvement in the non-sentinel nodes. The authors tried to identify a subgroup of patients with a tumor positive sentinel node without non-sentinel node tumor involvement. In 135 consecutive patients with tumor positive sentinel nodes and axillary lymph node dissection performed, the incidence of non-sentinel node involvement according to tumor and sentinel node related factors was examined. The size of the sentinel node metastasis, size of primary tumor and number of tumor positive sentinel nodes were the three factors significantly predicting the status of the non-sentinel nodes. The size of the sentinel node metastasis was the strongest predictive factor (P < 0.0001). In a subgroup of 41 patients with a stage T1 tumor and micrometastatic involvement in the sentinel node only 2 patients (5%) had non-sentinel node involvement. In patients with small primary tumors and micrometastatic involvement of the sentinel nodes, the chance of nonsentinel node involvement is small but cannot be discarded. Because the clinical relevance of micrometastases in lymph nodes is still unclear it is not advisable to omit axillary lymph node dissection even in these patients.

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