Intraoperative assessment of sentinel lymph nodes in early-stage breast cancer

Rom J Morphol Embryol. 2018;59(4):1033-1039.


The assessment of axillary lymph node (ALN) status provides heavily weighing prognostic indicators in deciding on breast carcinoma treatment. In the 6th and 7th editions of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Cancer Staging Manual are evaluated the nodal metastases based on size and taking into account the number of metastatic cells. According to these Manuals, a positive node is equated to metastasis whose size reaches at least 0.2 mm or amounting to more than 200 tumor cells. The clinical significance and the therapeutic optimum of the presence of a minimal nodal involvement after axillary sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) biopsy remain controversial. The need for further axillary treatment (ALN dissection or axillary radiation) in clinical N0 patients with early-stage breast carcinoma and SLNs metastases remains unclear. In all likelihood, the delivery of the regular adjuvant treatment in association with systemic treatment and radiation therapy results in survival rates similar to axillary treatment completion. This review also presents several assessment methods related to the SLNs at the surgical stage, such as cytological, histological, immunohistochemical and molecular diagnostic techniques, evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. More studies including larger groups of breast patients are needed to confirm which of them is the most reliable method for the evaluation of the SLNs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care*
  • Neoplasm Micrometastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / pathology*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / surgery*