Background: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) has replaced axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) for axillary staging in early node-negative breast cancer (BC) patients in developed countries. However, in resource-constrained developing countries, adoption of SLNB is slow due to logistic issues and lack of outcome data from non-screened BC cohort. Therefore, we aim to report diagnostic performance, surgical morbidity and survival outcome of SLNB in BC patients from a tertiary care cancer centre in India.
Methodology: 1,521 consecutive early node-negative T1-3N0 BC patients having SLNB from 2011 to 2020 were included in the study. Data were retrieved from the institutional Redcap database and electronic medical records. Analysis was done using Stata14.
Results: SLNB was done by dual dye (methylene blue (MB) + radioisotope (RI)/indo cyanine green (ICG)) in 57.7%, MB only in 39.3%, and RI alone in 3% of patients. The identification rate (IR) and SLNB positivity rate were 96% and 27.7%, respectively. IR was highest (98%) with MB + ICG and lowest (94%) with MB alone SLNB. UltraSonoGraphy guided fine needle aspiration cytology of radiological suspicious nodes has significantly reduced the SLNB positivity rate from 34.6% to 26.4% (p < 0.01). One patient had skin necrosis, and 16 had persistent blue staining of the skin in the MB injection site. All were managed conservatively. The lymphedema rate was significantly higher (5.2%) in the ALND versus 0.5% in the SLNB alone patients (p < 0.05). In a median follow up of 27 months, the axillary recurrence rate was 0.04% (4/1,023), and false-negative rate was 0.9% in SLNB negative patients. There were 35 recurrences and 25 deaths in SLNB negative patients, with 10 years predicted disease-free survival of 81% (95% CI 66% to 89%) and overall survival of 79% (95% CI 59% to 90%).
Conclusions: SLNB should be offered as an axillary staging procedure to all eligible BC patients from developing countries to avoid the morbidity associated with ALND. Fluorescent dye can be used as an alternative for RI in a resource-constrained setup.