The role of lymphoscintigraphy in the management of the patient with breast cancer.
INTRODUCTION: Regional nodal status is the most powerful predictor of recurrence and survival in women with breast cancer. Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy have been found to accurately predict the regional nodal status. Preoperative lymphoscintigraphy has been used in melanoma patients to identify the basins at risk for metastases when primary sites are located in watershed areas of the body. This study was performed to define the role of lymphoscintigraphy for axillary nodal staging in women with breast cancer. Specifically, can preoperative lymphoscintigraphy define a population of women with breast cancer who have multidirectional drainage or who do not drain to the axilla and need no axillary dissection? METHODS: 516 patients with invasive breast cancer were accrued in a national breast lymphatic mapping trial sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. Preoperative lymphoscintigraphy images were produced using filtered technetium-99 sulfur colloid. Lymphatic drainage to axillary and internal mammary sites was noted. RESULTS: Drainage to an axillary SLN was found in 335 (65%) patients, and internal mammary or extra-axillary drainage was noted in 52 (10%) patients. By using sensitive hand-held probes and vital blue dye intraoperatively, the overall success rate of finding an axillary SLN was 85%. Of the 335 patients who had an axillary SLN identified with imaging, all had successful SLN biopsy procedures. Although no SLNs could be imaged in 181 patients, 153 (85%) of these patients had an axillary SLN identified with intraoperative mapping. For 28 patients in which lymphoscintigraphy was negative and intraoperative mapping was unsuccessful, complete axillary node dissection was performed, and 13 (46%) of these patients were found to have metastatic disease in the basin. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative lymphoscintigraphy can identify those women with primary breast cancers who have extra-axillary regional basin drainage such as internal mammary. The ability to image an axillary SLN was associated with a high success rate of being able to find the node intraoperatively with a combination mapping technique. In a high percentage of patients with negative lymphoscintigraphy, the SLN was identified with more sensitive hand-held probes. Therefore, patients who have a negative preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and intraoperatively are found to have no "hot" spot in the axilla with the hand-held probe still need an axillary node dissection, because 46% of these patients contain metastatic disease in the axilla.
Dupont, EL; Kamath, VJ; Ramnath, EM; Shivers, SC; Cox, C; Berman, C; Leight, GS; Ross, MI; Blumencranz, P; Reintgen, DS; DOD Breast Lymphatic Mapping Trial Investigators,
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