This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.
Introduction: Sentinel node biopsy is the main way to assess lymph node status. If there's cancer in the lymph nodes, sentinel node biopsy will find it over 90 percent of the time .
In the past, lymph nodes were assessed using axillary dissection. Now, only some people who have positive sentinel lymph nodes will need an axillary dissection.
Compared to axillary dissection, sentinel node biopsy :
Learn more about sentinel node biopsy and axillary dissection.
Learn about lymph node status and breast cancer prognosis (chances of survival).
Learn about lymph node status and staging.
Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies. Study selection criteria: Randomized clinical trials with at least 200 participants and meta-analyses. Table note: Sensitivity in the table below measures how accurately sentinel node biopsy identified lymph node status.
For example, a sensitivity of 90 percent means 90 percent of the people the sentinel node biopsy identified as having positive lymph nodes did, in fact, have cancer in their lymph nodes when checked with axillary dissection.
Study Population(number of participants)
Method Used(blue dye, radioactive tracer or combined technique)
Accuracy in Predicting Lymph Node Status, Sensitivity %
Randomized clinical trials
NSABP B-32 Trial 
T1, T2, T3
SNAC Trial 
Blue dye alone or combined technique
Sentinella/GIVOM Trial 
Radioactive tracer alone
Canavese et al. 
Kim et al. 
Blue dye alone, radioactive tracer or combined technique
Xing et al. 
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