Clinical and Translational Oncology

, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp 513–520 | Cite as

Axillary surgery in breast cancer patients

  • A. MilletEmail author
  • C. A. Fuster
  • A. Lluch
  • F. Dirbas


Surgeons have routinely removed ipsilateral axillary lymph nodes from women with breast cancer for over 100 years. The procedure provides important staging information, enhances regional control of the malignancy and may improve survival. As screening of breast cancer has increased, the mean size of newly diagnosed primary invasive breast cancers has steadily decreased and so has the number of women with lymph node metastases. Recognising that the therapeutic benefit of removing normal nodes may be low, alternatives to the routine level I/II axillary lymph node dissection have been sought. A decade ago sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) was introduced. Because of its high accuracy and relatively low morbidity, this technique is now widely used to identify women with histologically involved nodes prior to the formal axillary node dissection. Specifically, SLNB has allowed surgeons to avoid a formal axillary lymph node biopsy in women with histologically uninvolved sentinel nodes, while identifying women with involved sentinel nodes who derive the most benefit from a completion axillary node dissection. Despite the increasing use of SLNB for initial management of the axilla in women with breast cancer, important questions remain regarding patient selection criteria and optimal surgical methods for performing the biopsy. This article discusses the evolution of axillary node surgery for women with breast cancer.

Key words

Breast cancer Therapy Sentinel lymph node biopsy Axillary dissection 


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© Feseo 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Breast Diseases. Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyValencia School of MedicineValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Division of Breast Diseases. Department of General SurgeryValencia General HospitalValenciaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Medical OncologyValencia School of MedicineValenciaSpain
  4. 4.Division of Breast Diseases. Department of SurgeryStanford School of MedicinePalo AltoUSA

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