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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • lymph nodes;
  • fine-needle aspiration biopsy;
  • sentinel lymph node biopsy;
  • neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Abstract

Staging of disease is routine in the evaluation of patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Assessment of palpable and/or nonpalpable locoregional lymph nodes is an important component of the initial staging. Ultrasound (US) is the favored imaging modality for the initial investigation of lymph nodes and results in a significant increase in the specificity of the overall evaluation when used in conjunction with fine-needle aspiration (FNA). This review provides a concise summary, based on published literature, of the current applications and future prospects of FNA biopsy of locoregional lymph nodes in the initial staging and subsequent surgical management of patients with breast cancer. Patients undergo either sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy or complete axillary lymph node dissection, based on whether the axillary lymph node status is determined to be negative or positive in the initial staging process. The status of lymph nodes in the supraclavicular, infraclavicular, and internal mammary regions provides more accurate staging information and also impacts subsequent surgical management. The identification and evaluation of intramammary lymph nodes can add value in the overall assessment of patients with breast cancer. The feasibility of noninvasive imaging modalities for SLN mapping in animal models has indicated a good potential for FNA biopsy in the subsequent investigation of SLNs identified noninvasively in humans. Cancer (Cancer Cytopathol) 2009. © 2009 American Cancer Society.