Management of the axilla in patients with breast cancer and positive sentinel lymph node biopsy: An evidence-based update in a European breast center

Carlos A. Garcia-Etienne, Alberta Ferrari, Angelica Della Valle, M. Lucioni, E. Ferraris, Giuseppe Di Giulio, L. Squillace, Elisabetta Bonzano, Angioletta Lasagna, Gianpiero Rizzo, Richard Tancredi, Andrea Scotti Foglieni, Francesca Dionigi, Maurizia Grasso, Eloisa Arbustini, Giorgio Cavenaghi, P. Pedrazzoli, Andrea R. Filippi, P. Dionigi, A. Sgarella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The surgical approach to the axilla in breast cancer has been a controversial issue for more than three decades. Data from recently published trials have provided practice-changing recommendations in this scenario. However, further controversies have been triggered in the surgical community, resulting in heterogeneous diffusion of these recommendations. The development of clinical guidelines for the management of the axilla in patients with breast cancer is a work in progress. A multidisciplinary team discussion was held at the research hospital Policlinico San Matteo from the Università degli Studi di Pavia with the aim to update recommendations for the management of the axilla in patients with breast cancer. An evidence-based approach is presented. Our multidisciplinary panel determined that axillary dissection after a positive sentinel lymph node biopsy may be avoided in cN0 patients with micro/macrometastasis to ≤2 sentinel nodes, with age ≥40y, lesions ≤3 cm, who have not received neoadjuvant chemotherapy and have planned breast conservation (BCS) with whole breast radiotherapy (WBRT). Cases with gross (>2 mm) ECE in SLNs are evaluated on individual basis for completion ALND, axillary radiotherapy or omission of both. Patients fulfilling the criteria listed above who undergo mastectomy, may also avoid axillary dissection after multidisciplinary discussion of individual cases for consideration of axillary irradiation. Women 70 years or older with hormone receptors positive invasive lesions ≤3 cm, clinically negative nodes, and serious or multiple comorbidities who undergo BCS with WBRT, may forgo axillary staging/surgery (if mastectomy or larger tumor, comorbidities and life expectancy are taken into account).

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Axillary dissection
  • Axillary lymph node dissection
  • Axillary lymphadenectomy
  • Positive sentinel node
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Surgery for breast cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology

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