Axillary Staging Prior to Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy: The Roles of Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy and Axillary Ultrasonography

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Background: Clinical evaluation of the axilla is an area of controversy in current breast cancer research and management. Evidence of axillary metastasis on biopsy affects all modalities of cancer therapeutics and is central to breast cancer staging. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is standard therapy for patients with locally advanced breast cancer and considered for patients with early-stage breast cancer.

Methods: This article discusses axillary ultrasonography for axillary staging relative to neoadjuvant chemotherapy, reviews advances in sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy techniques, and explores an integrated approach to axillary staging. Techniques for staging the axilla after a breast cancer diagnosis relative to the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy are also discussed.

Results: There is increasing support in the literature for routine axillary ultrasonography and percutaneous biopsy in the evaluation of regional nodal metastasis for breast cancer. SLN biopsy and axillary node dissection continue to be the standards for definitive staging.

Conclusions: Axillary ultrasonography (with or without biopsy) and SLN biopsy are safe and feasible options for breast cancer staging and may facilitate treatment decisions for surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Multidisciplinary review may also significantly influence treatment and timing of staging and therapy. An integrated approach to diagnosis and treatment is beneficial for both patients and providers.

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Cancer Control, v. 19, issue 4, p. 277-285

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