Background: Assessment of axillary lymph node status is necessary for patients with invasive breast cancer. Sentinel node biopsy is a new minimally invasive technique that may provide accurate assessment of regional lymph node status while limiting the morbidity associated with axillary clearance.
Methods: A workshop conducted in Adelaide in November 1998 aimed to assess current sentinel node mapping and biopsy techniques, and make recommendations regarding its application in the surgical management of early breast cancer in Australia and New Zealand.
Results: At the conclusion of the workshop, a consensus was reached regarding indications, exclusions, sentinel node mapping/biopsy technique, nuclear medicine requirements, pathology and safety of sentinel node biopsy in breast cancer. It was agreed that a feasibility study according to an agreed prospective protocol was necessary to validate the technique by breast surgeons. Surgeons that satisfied validation criteria for the feasibility study could then consider a prospective randomized study comparing sentinel node biopsy with standard axillary dissection.
Conclusions: Sentinel node biopsy in breast cancer involves close cooperation between members of a multidisciplinary team including surgeons, nuclear physicians, pathologists and radiologists. Although the technique has the potential to reduce morbidity associated with axillary surgery, surgical performance in this area will need to be closely monitored to ensure that the technique does not fall into disrepute by adversely affecting breast cancer prognosis.