Impact of axillary lymph node dissection on the therapy of breast cancer patients

Paul P. Lin, David C. Allison, Jean Wainstock, Kathy D. Miller, William C. Dooley, Neil Friedman, R. Robinson Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


Purpose: We studied a series of 283 breast cancer patients retrospectively to determine the actual benefits of axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) for these patients. Patients and Methods: The records of 283 women with invasive breast cancer treated between 1988 and 1990 were reviewed for histologic status of the axillary lymph nodes, tumor size, DNA content, hormone-receptor values, and actual adjuvant treatments received. Results: ALND was of possible therapeutic benefit for the 15% (43 of 283) of patients who had clinically positive nodes. Nodal metastases were found in 86% (37 of 43) of patients in this subgroup. ALND alone determined the indication for standard adjuvant therapy for a group of 31 % (88 of 283) of patients who had favorable primary biopsy findings and clinically negative ax-illary nodes; ALND proved that 13% (11 of 88) of these latter patients had positive nodes. For 54% (152 of 283) of patients who had clinically negative nodes and unfavorable biopsies, ALND played no role in the decision as to whether standard adjuvant therapy was indicated. Only 5% (seven of 1 52) and 3% (four of 152) of these latter patients received radiation therapy and/or high-dose adjuvant chemotherapy, respectively, because of ALND. Conclusion: The benefits of ALND vary greatly for different groups of breast cancer patients, and controlled studies may be needed to determine whether ALND is necessary for all breast cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1536-1544
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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