Medline: 10898177

Journal of the American College of Surgeons 191(1): 1-8, 2000.

Predictive factors associated with axillary lymph node metastases in T1a and T1b breast carcinomas: analysis in more that 900 patients.

Rivadeneira DE, Simmons RM, Christos PJ, et al.


Axillary lymph node metastasis (ALNM) represents the single most important prognostic indicator in patients diagnosed with breast cancer. The proportion of < or = 1-cm (T1a, T1b) invasive breast carcinomas is increasing. The incidence and predictive factors associated with ALNM in patients with < or = 1-cm tumors remains unclear and the role of axillary lymph node dissection in these patients has been questioned. The purpose of this study was to determine clinical and pathologic factors predictive of ALNM in patients with < or = 1-cm invasive breast carcinomas by univariate and multivariate analyses. STUDY DESIGN: Review analysis from a prospective database identified patients with < or = 1-cm invasive breast cancers treated at our institution between 1990 and 1996. All patients underwent a resection of the primary tumor and axillary lymph node dissections. Routine patient and tumor characteristics evaluated included: age, race, tumor size, histologic grade, estrogen and progesterone receptor status, and lymphatic and vascular invasion. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed. Adjusted odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) are presented.

A total of 919 patients were identified in this study with tumors < or = 1 cm. These included 199 patients (21.7%) with T1a tumors and 720 patients (78.3%) with T1b tumors. ALNM was detected in 165 patients with an overall incidence of 18.0%. Of the ALNM group, 32 patients (19.4%) had T1a tumors and 133 patients (80.6%) had T1b tumors. Four variables were found to be significant in univariate analysis. These included: increasing tumor size, poor histologic grade, presence of lymphatic or vascular invasion, and younger age of the patient. An increase in tumor size was associated with a significant risk of ALNM (OR = 2.66, 95% CI = 1.28 to 5.75; p = 0.01). Poor tumor grade and the presence of lymphatic or vascular invasion were also associated with an increased risk of ALNM (OR = 2.69, p = 0.003 and OR = 5.52, p = 0.0001, respectively). Patients with ALNM were more likely to have a tumor grade of 3 (25.0% ALNM versus 12.5% node-negative, p = 0.004) and lymphatic or vascular invasion (16.9% ALNM versus 3.5% node-negative, p < 0.0001). In multivariate analysis, an increased risk of ALNM was demonstrated with increasing tumor size (0.1-cm increments), poor histologic grade, and younger age.

This study investigated clinical and pathologic factors influencing ALNM in patients with T1a and T1b breast carcinomas. We have identified three factors by multivariate analysis as significant independent predictors of ALNM in this group of patients. These include increasing tumor size, poor histologic grade, and younger age. Given the significant amount of ALNM demonstrated in this study (overall 18%) and the inability to identify a subgroup of patients that had an acceptable low risk of ALNM, the complete omission of assessing the axilla for metastatic disease in patients with small breast cancers cannot be advocated. Our recommendation for patients diagnosed with T1a and T1b tumors is to have their axilla investigated for metastatic disease either by traditional axillary lymph node dissections or by intraoperative lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy techniques.

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Dr. G. Quade