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Axillary Surgery for Breast Cancer in 2024.

Cancers 2024 April 24
Axillary surgery for patients with breast cancer (BC) in 2024 is becoming increasingly specific, moving away from the previous 'one size fits all' radical approach. The goal is to spare morbidity whilst maintaining oncologic safety. In the upfront surgery setting, a first landmark randomized controlled trial (RCT) on the omission of any surgical axillary staging in patients with unremarkable clinical examination and axillary ultrasound showed non-inferiority to sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy (SLNB). The study population consisted of 87.8% postmenopausal patients with estrogen receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative BC. Patients with clinically node-negative breast cancer and up to two positive SLNs can safely be spared axillary dissection (ALND) even in the context of mastectomy or extranodal extension. In patients enrolled in the TAXIS trial, adjuvant systemic treatment was shown to be similar with or without ALND despite the loss of staging information. After neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT), targeted lymph node removal with or without SLNB showed a lower false-negative rate to determine nodal pathological complete response (pCR) compared to SLNB alone. However, oncologic outcomes do not appear to differ in patients with nodal pCR determined by either one of the two concepts, according to a recently published global, retrospective, real-world study. Real-world studies generally have a lower level of evidence than RCTs, but they are feasible quickly and with a large sample size. Another global real-world study provides evidence that even patients with residual isolated tumor cells can be safely spared from ALND. In general, few indications for ALND remain. Three randomized controlled trials are ongoing for patients with clinically node-positive BC in the upfront surgery setting and residual disease after NACT. Pending the results of these trials, ALND remains indicated in these patients.

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