A new study has reported that the presence of sentinel node micrometastases does not influence breast cancer survival during the first years after diagnosis. The study was designed to compare survival of patients with sentinel node micrometastases with those having node-negative and node-positive breast cancer. Sentinel node biopsy for axillary staging facilitates the use of more extensive pathologic examination techniques.

However, as a result, micrometastases are being detected more often and there is a need for improvement in assessing their prognostic relevance and how they should influence treatment decisions. The study examined data on 6,803 Dutch women who underwent sentinel node biopsy for invasive breast cancer during the period 1996 to 2006.

A sentinel node micrometastasis was found in 451 patients (6.6%) and isolated tumor cells were found in 126 patients (1.9%). Micrometastases or isolated tumor cells found in the sentinel node biopsy was not found to significantly influence survival compared with node-negative disease. Even after adjustment for age, tumor grade, and chemotherapy, no survival difference emerged. The authors conclude that the presence of sentinel node micrometastases in breast cancer patients has no measurable impact on breast cancer survival during the first years after diagnosis.