The presence of metastases in the lymph nodes of the axillary fossa is the most important prognostic factor in patients with breast cancer. The surgical treatment option required for evaluation of the condition of the axillary lymph nodes depends on the results of a preoperative physical examination of the patients.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the correctness of breast cancer patients’ qualification to surgical procedures allowing for evaluation of the condition of the axillary lymph nodes.
Material and methods. A retrospective analysis of a group of 963 patients with a diagnosed malignancy of the breast, treated surgically in the period from 01 Jan 2011 to 29 Feb 2012. Depending on the result of evaluation of the axillary lymph node clinical condition, the patients underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy or elective axillary lymphadenectomy.
Results. In 27.4% of patients subjected to excision of the sentinel lymph node, metastatic lesions were found in the lymph nodes removed during the procedure. In most cases (98.1%) that concerned the lymph nodes of the lower part of the axilla. In 17.4% of patients, metastases were located also in the middle or upper part (9%). In the group of patients primarily qualified to lymphadenectomy, the metastatic lesions in the axillary lymph nodes were diagnosed in 67.2% of patients. They were most commonly located in the lower part of the axillary fossa (in 96.7% of cases), and in 68.8% of patients in the middle or upper part (35.8%).
Conclusions. Biopsy of the sentinel lymph node in patients with clinically advanced breast cancer is an effective and safe method of evaluation of the condition of the axillary fossa lymph nodes. A high rate of false positive results concerning the clinical stage of the disease requires changing the rules of patients’ qualification to elective axillary lymphadenectomy.
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