Sentinel lymph node biopsy as the new standard of care in the surgical treatment for breast cancer

Alberta Ferrari, Francesca Rovera, Paolo Dionigi, Giorgio Limonta, Marina Marelli, Isabella Besana Ciani, Veronica Bianchi, Cristiana Vanoli, Renzo Dionigi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the recent years, based on the results of validation studies, the sentinel lymph node biopsy has replaced routine axillary dissection as the new standard of care in early breast cancer. The technique represents a minimally invasive, highly accurate method for axillary staging, which could spare approximately 65-70% of patients unnecessary axillary dissection and its related morbidity Several technical and clinical controversies have been raised during the development of this new technique; the authors review the most important issues, some questions have already been answered and others are still under debate. As far as the technical aspects are concerned, mapping techniques, appropriate surgical training, options for pathological examination of sentinel lymph nodes and the issue of nonaxillary sentinel lymph nodes are discussed. An update on clinical controversies demonstrates that factors such as large tumor size, palpable axillary nodes, multifocality and multicentricity, previous breast and axillary surgery, and pregnancy are no longer regarded as absolute contraindications for sentinel lymph node biopsy. Feasibility, accuracy and timing of sentinel lymph node biopsy in patients undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy remain unsolved issues, as well as the indication of the technique for some subgroups of in situ lesions. Finally, one of the most attractive open forums for debate will be discussed: Whether or not completion of axillary dissection in the case of positive SLN is always required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1503-1515
Number of pages13
JournalExpert Review of Anticancer Therapy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


  • Breast cancer
  • Breast surgery
  • Clinical controversies
  • Sentinel node biopsy
  • Sentinel node micrometastasis
  • Technical controversies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Pharmacology


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