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Impact on regional recurrence and survival of axillary surgery in women with node‐negative primary breast cancer. BJS 2009; 96: 40-46.

Published: 24th December 2008

Authors: C. K. Axelsson, M. Düring, P. M. Christiansen, P. A. Wamberg, K. L. Søe, S. Møller et al.

Background

This study examined whether axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) with removal of many normal lymph nodes resulted in a reduced rate of axillary recurrence and better survival, as reported in recent studies.

Method

The follow‐up analyses were based on 8657 patients with node‐negative primary breast cancer treated solely by surgery. Median follow‐up was 9 years.

Results

The number of lymph nodes removed correlated with a reduction in the rate of subsequent axillary recurrence (from 2·1 to 0·4 per cent; P = 0·037), local recurrence (from 7·4 to 3·8 per cent; P < 0·001) distant metastases (from 15·0 to 10·3 per cent; P < 0·001) and death as first event (from 7·5 to 5·5 per cent; P = 0·012).

Conclusion

When ALND is indicated, at least ten axillary lymph nodes should be retrieved. The role of ALND as primary treatment has decreased significantly during the past decade. The findings leave the concept of the sentinel node biopsy intact, as a highly specific procedure compared to ALND. Copyright © 2008 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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