Due to the extensive pathologic evaluation of the sentinel lymph node (SLN), micrometastases are frequently observed. If micrometastases are clinically relevant, the histopathologic examination of SLNs should be sensitive enough to detect them. The probability of detecting micrometastases was calculated when examining the SLN according to the current Dutch pathology protocol and strategies evaluated to optimize the chance of detection. The dimensions of 20 consecutive axillary SLNs in patients with cT1-2N0 breast cancer were measured. In a mathematical model, the probability of detecting micrometastases in a SLN was calculated. Similarly, strategies to optimize the probability of detecting micrometastases were explored. When applying the pathology guidelines, the calculated probability to detect a micrometastasis was 18% for a 200-μm micrometastasis and 69% for a 2.0-mm metastasis in a median sized SLN. To detect the smallest micrometastasis in a median-sized SLN with a 95% probability, the interval between the sections must be decreased to 200 μm, and 20 levels from both halves must be examined. Given a prognostic significance of micrometastases, our current pathology guidelines are not sensitive enough. The number of sections should be increased, while the interval between cuts should be no more than 200 μm.

Breast cancer, Micrometastases, Pathology, Sentinel lymph node, Staging
dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00428-008-0601-1, hdl.handle.net/1765/64934
Virchows Archiv
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Madsen, E.V.E, van Dalen, J, van Gorp, J, Borel Rinkes, I.H.M, & van Dalen, T. (2008). Strategies for optimizing pathologic staging of sentinel lymph nodes in breast cancer patients. Virchows Archiv, 453(1), 17–24. doi:10.1007/s00428-008-0601-1