Axillary metastases in breast cancer patients with negative sentinel nodes: A follow-up of 3548 cases

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Premises: Sentinel node biopsy (SNB) in patients with breast carcinoma accurately predicts the axillary node status. However, in some 4-7% of patients with negative sentinel nodes, the remaining axillary nodes harbour cancer cells. Objective: Our purpose was the long-term observation of a large number of patients who did not receive axillary dissection after a negative sentinel node biopsy, in order to evaluate the incidence of overt axillary metastases. Methods: Patients (3548) treated from 1996 to 2004, with negative sentinel nodes not submitted to axillary dissection, were followed up to 11 years with a median follow-up of 48 months. Results: Three hundred and sixteen unfavourable events occurred among the 3548 patients, 196 of which (5.5%) related to primary breast carcinoma. Thirty one cases of overt axillary metastases were found (0.9%): they received total axillary dissection and 27 of them are at present alive and well. The 5-year overall survival rate of the whole series was 98%. Conclusions: Patients with negative sentinel node biopsy not submitted to axillary dissection show, at follow-up, a rate of overt axillary metastases lower than expected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1388
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • Breast cancer
  • Negative sentinel node biopsy
  • Overt axillary metastases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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