Can Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Be Spared in Papillary Carcinoma of the Breast?

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Papillary carcinoma (PC) of the breast represents ˜0.5% of all newly diagnosed cases of breast cancer and usually has an indolent course. The current data suggest lack of a consensus in the surgical management of this disease. Because patients can occasionally develop metastatic disease, sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is often performed during surgery.

Materials and Methods

In the present study, we retrospectively evaluated the histologic characteristics of 99 cases of PC with or without associated frank invasive carcinoma, including 43 encapsulated or intracystic PCs, 24 solid PCs, and 32 intraductal PCs, and correlated these with the incidence of nodal metastasis.


Of the 99 cases, 64 were tumor stage Tis (noninvasive), 5 were T1 microinvasive, 17 T1a, 5 T1b, 5 T1c, and 3 were T2. A total of 37 patients (37%) underwent axillary staging, including 31 SLN biopsies and 6 axillary dissections. Only 1 patient (2.7%) with noninvasive solid PC had evidence of nodal metastasis. Follow-up information was available for 81 patients, with a mean follow-up period of 4.9 years (range, 1-13 years). Two local recurrences, no distant metastases, and no disease-related deaths were recorded.


PC rarely involves the lymph nodes even in tumors with an associated frank invasive component, and the overall prognosis and long-term survival is excellent. We propose that evaluation of the SLN should not be routinely indicated for patients with PC treated by local control lumpectomy.


We evaluated the clinicopathologic features of 99 cases of papillary carcinoma (PC). One patient had sentinel lymph node (SLN) metastasis, two patients had recurred locally, and none exhibited distant metastases or disease-related death. PC rarely involves the lymph nodes, even in tumors with an associated frank invasive component. We propose that evaluation of SLN is not routinely indicated for PC cases.

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