What are the NCCN guidelines for axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) in the treatment of breast cancer?

Updated: Dec 27, 2019
  • Author: Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: John V Kiluk, MD, FACS  more...
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The NCCN recommends axillary dissection level I/II if the sentinel node is not identified or if the sentinel node is positive but the patient fails to meet all the following criteria:

  • T1 or T2 tumor
  • Only one or two positive sentinel lymph nodes
  • Breast-conserving therapy
  • Whole-breast radiation therapy planned
  • No preoperative chemotherapy

If the patient does meet all those criteria, the NCCN recommends against further axillary surgery. In addition, no further axillary surgery is a category 1 recommendation for patients with a negative sentinal lymph node. The NCCN guidelines state that lymph node dissection is optional in the following cases:

  • Strongly favorable tumors
  • When the result would not affect the choice of adjuvant systemic therapy
  • Elderly patients
  • Patients with comorbid conditions

Finally, for patients with clinically negative axillae who are undergoing mastectomy and for whom radiation therapy is planned, the NCCN states that axillary radiation may replace axillary dissection level I/II for regional control of disease.

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