J Surg Res. 2020 Jul 14;256:13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.05.100. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: In women with clinically node-negative breast cancer, sentinel lymph node biopsy is the first step in axillary staging. A randomized trial published in 2013 concluded that patients with sentinel lymph node micrometastases (N1mi) do not benefit from axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). We hypothesized that disparities exist in management of the axilla in node-negative patients.
METHODS: We included women aged >40 years with nonmetastatic, clinically node-negative breast cancer from 2014 to 2016 in the National Cancer Database. Women treated neoadjuvantly, with large tumors (cT4), or no tumor (cT0) were excluded. Multivariable logistic regression identified patient and facility characteristics associated with undergoing ALND as first axillary surgery and completion ALND in the setting of N1mi disease.
RESULTS: Of 273,951 patients, 22,898 (8%) underwent ALND first. These patients were more likely to be Hispanic (OR: 1.21, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.32), have Medicare (OR: 1.13, 95% CI: 1.03, 1.24), be uninsured (OR: 1.28, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.53), have lower educational attainment (OR: 1.24, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.32), be treated at a community hospital (OR: 1.62, 95% CI: 1.52, 1.74), or reside in the South (OR: 1.19, 95% CI: 1.12, 1.26). In the sentinel lymph node biopsy first group, 8,882 (4%) were classified as N1mi and 1,872 (21%) underwent subsequent ALND. These patients were more likely to be Hispanic (OR: 1.70, 95% CI: 1.19, 2.42) and have the lowest income (OR: 1.62, 95% CI: 1.15, 2.27).
CONCLUSION: Disparities persist in implementation of evidence-based management of the axilla in women with clinically node-negative breast cancer.