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AIM: The sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) was firstly introduced by Giuliano and co. in 1994 for the treatment of breast cancer; in comparison to the axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), the sentinel lymph node biopsy has shown both a lower morbidity and acceptable distance results. We want to show that this technique is reliable and should be used routinely in selected cases. MATERIALS OF STUDY: The study on the sentinel lymph node has been carried out, prior informed consent, in 128 patients aged between 27 and 80 years and suffering from non-multicentric infiltrating breast carcinoma, with a diameter not greater than 3 cm, clinically negative axillary, and hospitalized from January 1998 to September 2005 at the Department of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Metabolic Diseases of the Second University of the Study of Naples. For the recruitment of patients subjected to the sentinel lymph node research study, we have respected the inclusion criteria.
RESULTS: Histological examination of the tumor revealed 95 cases of ductal carcinoma, 16 cases of mucinus carcinoma, 13 of lobular carcinoma and 4 of medullary carcinoma. The sentinel lymph node was detected through lymphoscintigraphy in 96.9% of the cases (124 patients), whereas it was not possible to identify it in 4 patients (3.1% of the cases), 2 of which had previously been subject to excision biopsy.
DISCUSSION: The SLNB is characterized by an identification rate of SLN > 90% with a false negative rate less than 5%. In our study we have found an SLN identification rate of 96,9% with false-negative rates of 3,9%. Our data show that in only 6,3% of the patients (4 non- identified and 4 false-negative cases) it was necessary to perform ALND because the SLN resulted positive; however no metastasis were observed in level III lymph nodes.
CONCLUSIONS: Since its inception, the sentinel lymph node technique has gained an increasingly important role in the conservative treatment of the breast carcinoma due to the short duration of the surgery, the decrease of post-operative pain, the risk of lymphedema onset and hospital confinement, the high predictive power and the diagnostic accuracy. We strongly believe that the sentinel lymph node technique is reliable and should be used routinely in selected cases.