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Research

Management of the positive sentinel lymph node following neoadjuvant chemotherapy: results of a survey conducted with breast surgeons

17 Feb 2022
Francisco Pimentel Cavalcante, Felipe Zerwes, Eduardo Camargo Millen, Guilherme Novita, Alessandra Borba Anton de Souza, João Henrique Penna Reis, Helio Rubens de Oliveira Filho, Luciana Naíra de B L Limongi, Barbara Pace Silva de Assis Carvalho, Adriana Magalhães de Oliveira Freitas, Monica Travassos Jourdan, Vilmar Marques de Oliveira, Ruffo Freitas-Junior

Introduction: Despite the lack of randomised evidence, there is a current trend towards omitting axillary surgery in cases of positive sentinel lymph node (SLN) following neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT). This study evaluated practice patterns of Brazilian breast surgeons when managing positive SLN following NACT.

Methods: This was a nationwide electronic survey of breast surgeons affiliated with the Brazilian Society of Mastology. Management approaches for positive SLN after NACT (axillary dissection (AD), regional nodal irradiation (RNI) or no additional treatment) were evaluated as a function of residual disease volume in the SLN (macro-metastasis, micro-metastasis or isolated tumour cells (ITC)).

Results: Survey response rate was 49%, with 799/1,627 questionnaires returned. Most respondents were <50 years old (61%), lived in south-eastern Brazil (50%), in a major city (67%), worked in an academic institute (80%) and were board-certified (80%). AD recommendation rate decreased according to residual nodal disease volume: 91% of respondents recommended AD for cases of macro-metastasis, 64% for micro-metastasis and 38% for ITC (p < 0.00001). Furthermore, 35% would recommend no additional surgery for micro-metastasis, while 27% would recommend no treatment at all for ITC (p < 0.00001). Not working in an academic institute was associated with RNI for micro-metastasis (p = 0.02), but not for macro-metastasis or ITC. Being board-certified did not affect axillary management.

Conclusion: Most respondents would recommend AD and/or RNI in residual nodal disease following NACT irrespective of disease volume. Nevertheless, a trend towards surgical de-escalation was found with low-volume disease (micro-metastasis and ITC). Ongoing randomised trials will clarify the impact of this trend.

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