Breast Oncology

Annals of Surgical Oncology

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 2172-2180

First online:

Predictors and Outcomes of Completion Axillary Node Dissection Among Older Breast Cancer Patients

  • Sara H. JavidAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery, University of Washington Email author 
  • , Hao HeAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery, University of Washington
  • , Larissa A. KordeAffiliated withMedicine, University of Washington
  • , David R. FlumAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery, University of Washington
  • , Benjamin O. AndersonAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery, University of Washington

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The role of completion axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) for older women who had sentinel lymph node-positive (SLN+) invasive breast cancer is unclear. We examined factors predictive of ALND and the association between ALND, adjuvant chemotherapy administration, and survival.


Using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database, we reviewed records of women age >65 diagnosed with stage I/II breast cancer from 1998–2005. Adjusted Cox proportional hazards and multivariate logistic regression were used to identify patient and disease variables associated with ALND, and assess association between ALND and all-cause and breast cancer-specific survival.


Among SLN+ patients, 88 % underwent ALND. Earlier diagnosis year, greater nodal involvement, younger age, registry location, and larger tumor size were all associated with a significantly higher likelihood of ALND. The ALND in SLN+ patients was not significantly associated with 5-year breast cancer-specific survival (hazard ratio [HR] 1.22, 95 % confidence interval [CI] 0.76–1.96). The SLN+ patients who underwent ALND were more likely to receive adjuvant chemotherapy (odds ratio [OR] 1.8, 95 % CI 1.45–2.24). However, younger age (OR 18.0, 95 % CI 14.4–23.9), estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) status (OR 4.2, 95 % CI 3.4–5.3), and fewer comorbidities (OR 2.6, 95 % CI 1.7–4.0) were all more strongly linked to receipt of chemotherapy.


ALND for older patients with SLN+ breast cancer is not associated with improved 5-year all-cause or breast cancer-specific survival. Younger age, fewer comorbidities, and estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) status were more strongly associated with receipt of chemotherapy than ALND. Consideration should be given to omitting ALND in older patients, particularly if findings of ALND will not influence adjuvant therapy decisions.