Background: Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is the standard of care for the surgical assessment of the axilla during breast cancer surgery. However, the diagnostic accuracy of intraoperative frozen section analysis for confirming metastatic involvement of SLNs in cases of invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) versus that of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) has generated controversy secondary to a frequently low-grade cytologic appearance and an often discohesive pattern displayed by metastatic lymph nodes in ILC. In the current report, we present a comparison of intraoperative frozen section analysis for confirming the presence of metastatic disease within SLNs during breast cancer surgery for ILC and IDC.
Methods: We evaluated the results of 131 consecutive cases of ILC from 1997 to 2008 and 133 cases of IDC (selected by a random sequence generator program) from amongst 1163 consecutive cases of IDC from the same time period. All cases had at least one SLN that had both intraoperative frozen section analysis and confirmatory permanent section analysis performed.
Results: No statistically significant difference was found in the sensitivity (67% vs. 75%, P = 0.385), specificity (100% vs. 100%), accuracy (86% vs. 92%, P = 0.172), false negative rate (33% vs. 25%, P = 0.385), negative predictive value (81% vs. 89%, P = 0.158), and positive predictive value (100% vs. 100%) for frozen section analysis for confirming the presence of metastatic disease within SLNs during breast cancer surgery for ILC and IDC.
Conclusion: Since there was no statistically significant difference in sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, false negative rate, negative predictive value, and positive predictive value between frozen section analysis of SLNs for patients with ILC and IDC, the clinical accuracy of confirming metastatic involvement of SLNs on frozen section analysis for ILC should not be considered inferior to the clinical accuracy for IDC. Therefore, frozen section analysis of all SLNs during breast cancer surgery in patients with ILC should remain the standard of care in order to reduce the risk of the need of a later, separate axillary lymph node dissection.