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The American Society of Breast Surgeons.
Annals of Surgical Oncology

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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Versus Axillary Dissection in Node-Negative Early-Stage Breast Cancer: 15-Year Follow-Up Update of a Randomized Clinical Trial

Giuseppe Canavese MD, Paolo Bruzzi MD, Alessandra Catturich MD, Daniela Tomei MD, Franca Carli MD, Elsa Garrone PhD, Stefano Spinaci MD, Federico Lacopo MD, Corrado Tinterri MD, Beatrice Dozin PhD
Breast Oncology
Volume 23, Issue 8 / August , 2016



Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) allows for staging of the axillary node status in early-stage breast cancer (BC) patients and avoiding complete axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) when the sentinel lymph node (SLN) is proven to be free of disease. In a previous randomized trial we compared SLNB followed by ALND (ALND arm) with SLNB followed by ALND only if the SLN presented metastasis (SLNB arm). At a mid-term of ≈ 6 years median follow-up, the two strategies appeared to ensure similar survival and locoregional control. We have revised these previous findings and update the results following a 15-year observation period.


Patients were randomly assigned to either the ALND or SLNB arm. The main endpoints were event-free survival (EFS), overall survival (OS), and axillary disease recurrence. EFS and OS were assessed using Kaplan–Meier analysis and the log-rank test.


The ALND and SLNB arms included 115 and 110 patients, respectively. At 14.3 years median follow-up, 39 primary BC-related recurrences occurred, 22 (19 %) of which occurred in the ALND arm and 17 (16 %) occurred in the SLNB arm (p = 0.519). No axillary relapse developed in the SLNB arm, while two were observed in the ALND arm. OS (82.0 vs. 78.8 %) and EFS (72.8 vs. 72.9 %) were not statistically different between the ALND and SLNB arms (p = 0.502 and 0.953, respectively).


SLNB is a safe and efficacious component of the surgical treatment of early-stage BC patients. In the long-term, SLNB is equivalent to ALND in terms of locoregional nodal disease control and survival in this subset of patients.

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