Objective: Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy has replaced axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) as the definitive nodal staging procedure for breast cancer. SLN biopsy has been proven to cause less morbidity and be more cost effective than complete ALND. Short-term follow-up has shown that lymphatic mapping and SLN have a low false-negative rate, but there is limited data demonstrating long-term outcomes within a large consecutive series of patients. Methods: Retrospective review of a prospective database of breast cancer patients at our institution was performed. The initial mapping of 1,530 patients with invasive breast cancer who demonstrated a negative sentinel node biopsy and no axillary dissection between January 1995 and June 2003 were collated and reviewed to achieve a long-term follow-up. These 1,530 patients were reviewed for follow-up time, local recurrences, distant metastases, and survival. Results: 1,530 consecutively mapped invasive breast cancer patients had a negative SLN biopsy and no ALND. The mean invasive tumor size was 1.40 cm. Of 1,530 patients, 73% (1,121) underwent lumpectomy and 27% (409) underwent mastectomy. Mean follow-up was 4.92 years (range 0-12.0 years). There have been 4 (0.26%) patients presenting with local axillary recurrences, 54 (3.53%) patients presenting with local recurrences in the ipsilateral breast/chest wall, and 24 (1.57%) presenting with distant metastases. Conclusion: These data confirm that SLN biopsy is an effective and safe alternative to ALND for detection of nodal metastases in patients with invasive breast cancer and should be used as the standard tool for nodal staging.
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