December 1st 2003
Sentinel node surgery potentially increases the accuracy of identifyinglymph nodes that contain breast cancer and decreases morbiditycompared to conventional axillary lymph node resection. However, nolong-term comparisons of the two modalities have been carried out,and the survival benefit associated with one protocol vs the other remainsunknown. Although sentinel node surgery is not expected to increasethe cure rate of breast cancer patients, a significant reduction inthe incidence of permanent side effects associated with axillary noderesection will be a considerable advance. The completion of clinicaltrials establishing that no meaningful reduction in survival is associatedwith the decrease in side effects is important.