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Predictive value of pathological and immunohistochemical parameters for axillary lymph node metastasis in breast carcinoma

Sibel Yenidunya*, Reyhan Bayrak and Hacer Haltas

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Department of Pathology, Fatih University Hospital, Ankara, Turkey

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Diagnostic Pathology 2011, 6:18  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-6-18

Published: 13 March 2011



While several prognostic factors have been identified in breast carcinoma, the clinical outcome remains hard to predict for individual patients. Better predictive markers are needed to help guide difficult treatment decisions. Axillary lymph node metastasis (ALNM) is one of the most important prognostic determinants in breast carcinoma; however, the reasons why tumors vary in their capability to result in axillary metastasis remain unclear. Identifying breast carcinoma patients at risk for ALNM would improve treatment planning. This study aimed to identify the factors associated with ALNM in breast carcinoma, with particular emphasis on basal-like phenotype.


Breast carcinoma patients (n = 210) who underwent breast conserving surgery and axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) (level I and II) or modified radical mastectomy were included in this study. Pathological and immunohistochemical data including individual receptor/gene status was collected for analysis. The basal phenotype status was ascertained using the basal cytokeratin markers CK5, CK14, CK17 and EGFR.


ALNM was found in 55% (n = 116) of the patients. On univariate analysis, multicentric disease, large tumor size (>2 cm), vascular and lymphatic invasion, epithelial hyperplasia, necrosis, in situ carcinoma and perineural invasion were associated with higher risk for ALNM, whereas CK5, CK14, EGFR positivity and basal-like tumor type were associated with lower risk. On multivariate analysis, CK5 positivity (OR 0.003, 95%CI 0.000-0.23, p = 0.009) and lymphatic/vascular invasion (OR 17.94, 95%CI 4.78-67.30, p < 0.001) were found to be independent predictors.


Although the value of complete ALND has been questioned in invasive breast cancer patients, treatment decisions for breast carcinoma have been influenced by many parameters, including lymph node status. Since histopathologic characteristics and expression of biological markers varies among the same histologic subtypes of breast carcinoma, specific clinical and histopathologic features of the primary tumor and ALN status like sentinel node might be used to tailor the loco-regional and systemic treatment in different clinical settings.