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A 10-Year Trend Analysis of Sentinel Lymph Node Frozen Section and Completion Axillary Dissection for Breast Cancer: Are These Procedures Becoming Obsolete?

Abstract

Background

Recent results from the ACOSOG Z0011 trial question the use of intraoperative frozen section (FS) during sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy and the role of axillary dissection (ALND) for SLN-positive breast cancer patients. Here we present a 10-year trend analysis of SLN-FS and ALND in our practice.

Methods

We reviewed our prospective SLN database over 10 years (1997–2006, 7509 SLN procedures) for time trends and variation between surgeons in the use of SLN-FS and ALND in patients with cN0 invasive breast cancer.

Results

Use of SLN-FS decreased from 100% to 62% (P < 0.0001) and varied widely by surgeon (66% to 95%). There were no statistically significant trends in the performance of ALND for patients with SLN metastases detected by FS (n = 1370, 99–99%) or routine hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) (n = 333; 69–77%), but only for those detected by serial section H&E with or without immunohistochemistry (n = 438; 73–48%; P = 0.0054) or immunohistochemistry only (n = 294; 48–28%; P < 0.0001). These trends coincided with an increase in the proportion of completion versus immediate ALND (30–40%; P = 0.0710).

Conclusions

Over 10 years, we have observed a diminishing rate of SLN-FS and, for patients with low-volume SLN metastases, fewer ALND, trends that suggest a more nuanced approach to axillary management. If the Z0011 selection criteria had been applied to our cohort, 66% of SLN-FS (4159 of 6327) and 48% of ALND (939 of 1953) would have been avoided, sparing 13% of all patients the morbidity of ALND.

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Acknowledgment

W.P.W. was partially supported by grants from the Hippocrate Foundation and “Stiftung für Molekularbiologische Tumorforschung.”

Disclosure

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to report.

Author information

Correspondence to Hiram S. Cody III MD.

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Weber, W.P., Barry, M., Stempel, M.M. et al. A 10-Year Trend Analysis of Sentinel Lymph Node Frozen Section and Completion Axillary Dissection for Breast Cancer: Are These Procedures Becoming Obsolete?. Ann Surg Oncol 19, 225–232 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1245/s10434-011-1823-z

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Keywords

  • Sentinel Lymph Node
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
  • Positive Sentinel Lymph Node
  • Freeze Section
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Metastasis