The timing of the sentinel lymph node biopsy (SNB) is controversial in clinically node negative patients receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC). We studied variation in the timing of axillary staging in breast cancer patients who received NAC and the subsequent axillary treatment in The Netherlands.
Patients diagnosed with clinically node negative primary breast cancer between 1st January 2010 and 30th June 2013 who received NAC and SNB were selected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Data on patient and tumour characteristics, axillary staging and treatment were analysed. Two groups were defined: (1) patients with SNB before NAC (N = 980) and (2) patients with SNB after NAC (N = 203).
Eighty-three percent of patients underwent SNB before NAC, with large regional variation (35–99%). The SN identification rate differed for SNBs conducted before and after NAC (98% versus 95%; p = 0.032). A lower proportion of patients had a negative SNB when assessed before NAC compared to after (54% versus 67%; p = 0.001). The proportion of patients receiving any axillary treatment was higher for those with SNB before NAC than after (45% versus 33%; p = 0.006).
In conclusion, variation exists in the timing of SNB in clinical practice in The Netherlands for clinically node negative breast cancer patients receiving NAC. The post-NAC SN procedure is, despite some lower SN identification rate, associated with a significantly less frequent axillary treatment and thus with less expected morbidity. The effect on recurrence rate is not yet clear. Patients in this registry will be followed prospectively for long-term outcome.
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Published online: April 06, 2015
Accepted: March 19, 2015
Received in revised form: February 1, 2015
Received: October 16, 2014
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.