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The American Society of Breast Surgeons.
Annals of Surgical Oncology

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Internal Mammary Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy in Clinically Axillary Lymph Node-Positive Breast Cancer: Diagnosis and Implications for Patient Management

Peng-Fei Qiu MD, Rong-Rong Zhao MD, Wei Wang MD, Xiao Sun MD, Peng Chen MD, Yan-Bing Liu MD, Zhi-Guo Liu MD, Yong-Sheng Wang MD, PhD
Breast Oncology
Online First ™ - August , 2019



Routine performance of internal mammary sentinel lymph node biopsy (IM-SLNB) remains a subject of debate due to no clinical relevance in breast cancer, because it was performed only in clinically axillary lymph node (ALN)-negative patients. In this study, IM-SLNB was performed in clinically ALN-positive patients, and its impact on nodal staging and therapeutic strategy were subsequently analyzed.


Clinically ALN-positive patients who underwent IM-SLNB were enrolled in this prospective study. Statistical analysis was performed using Chi square test, Mann–Whitney U and logistic regression models with a significance level of 0.05.


Among the 352 recruited patients, the internal mammary sentinel lymph node (IMSLN) visualization rate of patients who received initial surgery and neoadjuvant systemic therapy (NST) was 71.9% (123/171) and 33.1% (60/181), respectively. The 183 patients who underwent IM-SLNB successfully had the average time duration of 7 min and the median IMSLN number of 2. There were 87 positive IMSLNs in all the 347 removed IMSLNs, which were mainly concentrated in the second (50.6%) and third (34.5%) intercostal space. The IMSLN metastasis rate was 39.8% (initial surgery) and 13.3% (NST), respectively. All of the 183 IM-SLNB patients received more accurate nodal staging, 57 of whom had stage elevated, which might have prompted modifications to the therapeutic strategy.


IM-SLNB should be routinely performed in clinically ALN-positive patients, and thus more accurate nodal staging and perfect pathologic complete response definition could be put forward. The identification of IMLN metastases by IM-SLNB might potentially influence therapeutic strategies.

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