Better Outcomes for Sentinel Node Biopsy for Breast Cancer

In early-stage breast cancer, sentinel node biopsy leads to better arm function and quality of life

WEDNESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- For women with early-stage breast cancer, a sentinel node biopsy rather than lymph node removal is associated with better arm function and quality of life, according to a study in the May 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Robert E. Mansel, F.R.C.S., of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues studied 1,031 women with breast cancer, randomizing 515 to undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy and 516 to undergo standard axillary surgery. Patients with sentinel lymph node metastases were given the option of delayed axillary lymph node dissection or axillary radiotherapy. Patients were followed for a year after surgery.

The researchers found that patients who underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy had significantly better arm function, better quality of life, lower risk of lymphedema (relative risk 0.37), and lower risk of sensory loss (relative risk 0.37). These patients also had a significantly lower drain usage, hospital stay, time to resume daily activities and axillary operative times, according to the study.

"Sentinel lymph node biopsy is associated with reduced arm morbidity and better quality of life than standard axillary treatment and should be the treatment of choice for patients who have early-stage breast cancer with clinically negative nodes," Mansel and colleagues conclude.

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