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Long-term morbidity after a negative sentinel node in breast cancer patients

Hanne Verbelen, Wiebren Tjalma, Jill Meirte, Nick Gebruers
European Journal of Cancer Care 2019 May 3, : e13077

OBJECTIVE: Morbidity after sentinel lymph node biopsy is often underestimated. The aim of this study was to inventory arm and shoulder complaints in sentinel node-negative breast cancer patients post-surgery after long-term follow-up.

METHODS: Sentinel node-negative breast cancer patients with at least 2 years of follow-up after surgery were included in this study. Self-reported arm and shoulder morbidities were assessed using a survey. Patients (n = 126) were asked if they ever developed complaints, if these complaints were still present and whether they were ever treated for these complaints.

RESULTS: After a mean follow-up of 55.5 months (range 25-86 months), the prevalence of the self-reported arm and shoulder complaints was 25.8% for pain, 12.0% for numbness, 6.4% for paraesthesias, 7.1% for lymphedema, 8.0% for axillary web syndrome, 26.2% for loss of strength and 19.5% for limitations in range of motion. About 38.1% of the patients were treated by a physical therapist concerning the experienced complaints after SLNB.

CONCLUSION: Up to 7 years post-surgery a considerable amount of sentinel node-negative patients still suffer from arm and shoulder complaints. These complaints affect the activities of daily living. Therefore, more research is needed regarding the value of early detection and treatment of these complaints.


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