This overview examines how the introduction of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) has changed the pathological staging of breast cancer. The more intensive analysis of the sentinel lymph nodes (gross slicing, step sections, immunohistological or molecular analysis) has lead to stage shifting in breast cancer. Regarding the rate of up-staging by positive results of SLNB, there are significant differences between institutes, some method-related, some related to the interpretation of results. Methodological differences should be reduced by means of reliable guidelines with the goal of systematically identifying metastases of a particular size (a macrometastasis over 2 mm being the minimum criterion). The next review of the TNM classification should result in a reduction in interobserver variability as a result of better definitions of staging categories for isolated tumor cells and micrometastases. In addition, a staging category is expected for metastases which have been identified by calibrated quantitative molecular tests only and which are larger than isolated tumors. Even in settings where nodal staging by SLNB is based on molecular tests at least a proportion of the lymph node should be investigated histologically.