Sentinel node biopsy for breast cancer: Is it already a standard of care? A survey of current practice in an Italian region

Giorgio Zavagno, Gian Luca De Salvo, Dario Casara, Paula Del Blanco, Domenico Rubello, Fabrizio Meggiolaro, Carlo Ricardo Rossi, Mariaelena Pierobon, Mario Lise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although sentinel node biopsy (SNB) is becoming the standard approach for axillary staging in patients with small breast cancer, criteria for patient selection and some technical aspects of the procedure have yet to be clearly defined. The aim of the present survey was therefore to investigate the way in which SNB is used by general surgeons working in the Veneto region, Italy. Methods: A 29-item questionnaire regarding various aspects of SNB practice was mailed to surgeons in charge of breast surgery in all the 56 surgical centres of the region. Results: The rate of response to the questionnaire was 82.1% (n = 46); 69.6% (n = 32) of the respondents routinely perform SNB in their clinical practice. Most of the interviewed surgeons (93.5%) expressed the belief that the acceptable false negative rate should be ≤5%. However, among the surgeons who perform SNB, only 34.4% performed more than 20 SNB during the learning phase. Indications are limited to tumours of ≤1 cm by 31.2% (n = 10) of respondents, ≤2 cm by 46.9% (n = 15) and ≤3 cm by 21.9% (n = 7). Almost all respondents (93.7%) agreed that a clinically positive axilla is a contraindication to SNB, while opinions differed widely concerning other potential contraindications. In most of the centres considered, SN identification is undertaken on the day before surgery using a subdermal injection of 30-50 MBq of 99mTc-albumin-nanocolloid followed by lymphoscintigraphy. Conclusions: SNB is currently performed in the majority of hospitals in the Veneto region. However, the training phase and criteria used for patient selection differ from centre to centre. Certified training courses and shared guidelines are therefore highly desirable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalBMC Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Jan 22 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics


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