Axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) has been the standard axillary treatment for breast cancer for a long time. However, ALND is associated with postoperative morbidities, including local sensory dysfunction, reduced shoulder mobility and most notably arm lymphedema.
Recently, ALND can be avoided not only in clinically node-negative (cN0) patients with negative sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs), but also in patients with less than 3 positive SLNs receiving breast radiation, axillary radiation, or a combination of the two. Moreover, SLN biopsy has been adopted for use in clinically node-positive (cN +) patients presenting as cN0 after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC); ALND may be avoided in cN + patients who convert to SLN-negative following NAC. Patients who undergo SLN biopsy alone have less postsurgical morbidities than those who undergo ALND.
Nevertheless, ALND is still required in a select group of patients. A variety of conservative approaches to ALND have been developed to spare arm lymphatics to minimize arm lymphedema. These conservative procedures seem to decrease the incidence of lymphedema without increasing axillary recurrence. In the era of effective multimodality therapy, full conventional ALND removing all microscopic axillary disease may now be unnecessary in both cN0 patients and cN + patients. Regardless, emerging procedures for ALND should still be considered as investigational approaches, as further studies with longer follow-up are necessary to determine the safety of conservative ALND to spare arm lymphatics.
Read the full study here: Conservative axillary surgery is emerging in the surgical management of breast cancer - PubMed (nih.gov)
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