Necessity of sentinel lymph node biopsy in ductal carcinoma in situ patients: a retrospective analysis

BMC Surg. 2021 Mar 22;21(1):159. doi: 10.1186/s12893-021-01170-x.


Background: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is unnecessarily performed too often, owing to the high upstaging rates of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This study aimed to evaluate the upstaging rates of DCIS to invasive cancer, determine the prevalence of axillary lymph node metastasis, and identify the clinicopathological factors associated with upstaging and lymph node metastasis. We also examined surgical patterns among DCIS patients and determined whether SLNB guidelines were followed.

Methods: We retrospectively analysed 307 consecutive DCIS patients diagnosed by preoperative biopsy in a single centre between 2014 and 2018. Data from clinical records, including imaging studies, axillary and breast surgery types, and pathology results from preoperative and postoperative biopsies, were extracted. Univariate analyses using Chi-square tests and multiple logistic regression analyses were used to analyse the data.

Results: The rate of upstaging to invasive cancer was 19.2% (59/307). DCIS diagnosed by core-needle biopsy (odds ratio [OR]: 6.861, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.429-19.379), the presence of ultrasonic mass-forming lesions (OR: 2.782, 95% CI: 1.224-6.320), and progesterone receptor-negative status (OR: 3.156, 95% CI: 1.197-8.323) were found to be associated with upstaging. The rate of sentinel lymph node metastasis was only 1.9% (4/202), and all were total mastectomy patients diagnosed by core-needle biopsy. SLNB was performed in 37.2% of 145 breast-conserving surgery patients and 91.4% of 162 total mastectomy patients. Among the 202 patients who underwent SLNB, 145 (71.7%) without invasive cancer on final pathology had redundant SLNB. Two of 59 patients (3.4%) with disease upstaged to invasive cancer had inadequate primary staging of the axilla, as the rate seemed sufficiently small.

Conclusions: In patients with a preoperative diagnosis of DCIS, although an unavoidable possibility of upstaging to invasive cancer exists, axillary metastasis is unlikely. Only 2.7% of patients with DCIS undergoing total mastectomy were found to have sentinel lymph node metastases. SLNB should not be performed in breast-conserving surgery patients and should be reserved only for total mastectomy patients diagnosed by core-needle biopsy.

Keywords: Core-needle biopsy; Ductal carcinoma in situ; Predictive factor; Sentinel lymph node biopsy; Upstaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Axilla / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating* / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy*
  • Unnecessary Procedures