New approaches in breast cancer management: sentinel node biopsy and intraoperative radiotherapy

Int J Fertil Womens Med. Sep-Oct 2005;50(5 Pt 1):218-26.


Breast cancer is presenting earlier, and treatment is becoming less invasive. We review two recent changes in the approach to management. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a minimally invasive technique to identify the first draining lymph node in direct communication with the primary tumor; it enables "selective lymphadenectomy." Axillary lymph node dissection is reserved as a therapeutic procedure only for proven node positive patients. The concept has been validated, the techniques have been optimized, and randomized controlled trials have confirmed lower morbidity without compromising regional control compared with conventional treatment. The procedure is considered by many as the standard of care for staging the axilla in early breast cancer, although several unanswered questions remain. Adequate training and experience in the technique are vital to ensure high sentinel node identification and low false negative rates. Intraoperative radiotherapy is an attractive concept that enables delivery of single fraction radiotherapy in the operating room immediately after resection of the primary tumor. It is convenient for patients and appears effective in pilot studies. Partial breast irradiation to the index quadrant has been practiced for many years in the form o brachytherapy. Trials are under way comparing intraoperative radiotherapy with conventional external bea irradiation. Intra-operative radiotherapy should not be used outside of clinical trials until the results of the current randomized trials are known.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymph Nodes / surgery*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*