Long-term morbidity of patients with early breast cancer after sentinel lymph node biopsy compared to axillary lymph node dissection

J Surg Oncol. 2006 Feb 1;93(2):109-19. doi: 10.1002/jso.20406.


Background and objectives: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is widely accepted as an excellent method in the management of early breast cancer in patients with clinically negative axillary lymph nodes. Since SLNB requires less traumatic surgery to the axilla than axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), it was assumed to result in reduced shoulder/arm morbidity. However, data on long-term morbidity after SNLB are sparse. The present study was set up to compare long-term arm/shoulder morbidity as well as oncological outcome after SLNB versus ALND in patients with early breast cancer.

Methods: Oncological outcome, objective shoulder/arm morbidity, and subjective complaints after SLNB or ALND for T1 breast cancer were assessed after a minimum follow-up of 20 months.

Results: One hundred thirty four patients were included in the study. Thirty-one patients underwent SNLB only, 103 patients had SLNB followed by ALND or ALND only. Loss of strength and hypaesthesia were less frequent after SLNB. No lymph oedema occurred after SNLB without adjuvant radiotherapy. Subjective complaints concerning pain, hypaesthesia, and paresthesia were more common in the ALND group. No axillary recurrence developed in either group.

Conclusions: Isolated SLNB in node-negative pT1 breast cancer patients is a highly efficient tool to reduce postoperative long-term morbidity without compromising the local control of the disease. The reported ameliorations should favour SLNB as staging and treatment modality in patients suffering from early breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Mastectomy
  • Mastectomy, Segmental
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms, Ductal, Lobular, and Medullary / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Ductal, Lobular, and Medullary / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Ductal, Lobular, and Medullary / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy*
  • Treatment Outcome