Is the sentinel lymph node pathology protocol in breast cancer patients associated with the risk of regional recurrence?

M. J. Bolster, M. J. Pepels, C. A. P. Wauters, R. F. M. Schapers, J. W. R. Meijer, L. J. A. Strobbe, C. L. H. van Berlo, J. H. G. Klinkenbijl, T. Wobbes, A. C. Voogd, P. Bult, V. C. G. Tjan-Heijnen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Internationally, there is no consensus on the pathology protocol to be used to examine the sentinel lymph node (SN) in breast cancer patients. Previously, we reported that ultra-staging led to more axillary lymph node dissections (ALND). The question was, whether ultra-staging is effective in reducing the risk of regional relapse. Methods: From January 2002 to July 2003, 541 patients from 4 hospitals were prospectively registered when they underwent a SN biopsy. In hospitals A, B, and C, 3 levels of the SN were examined pathologically, whereas in hospital D at least 7 additional levels were examined. Patients with a positive SN, including isolated tumor cells, underwent an ALND. This analysis focuses on the 341 patients with a negative SN. Primary endpoint was 5-year regional recurrence rate. Results: In hospital D 34% of the patients had a negative SN as compared to 71% in hospitals A, B, and C combined (p <0.001). At 5 years follow-up, 9 (2.6%) patients had developed a regional lymph node relapse. In hospital D none of the patients had a regional recurrence, as compared to 9 (2.9%) cases of recurrence in hospitals 4, B, and C. Conclusion: The less intensified SN pathology protocol appeared to be associated with a slightly increased risk of regional recurrence. The absolute risk was still less than 3%, and does not seem to justify the intensified SN pathology protocol of hospital D.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-441
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • Breast cancer
  • Sentinel lymph node
  • Pathology protocol
  • Local recurrence


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