BACKGROUND: Randomized trials have established that patients with limited involvement of sentinel lymph node (SLN) do not require axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). The similar outcome in patients with ≤2 positive SLN with or without additional ALND is attributed, in part, to tangential fields (TgF) RT. We evaluated the dose distribution in the SLN biopsy area (SLNBa) as determined intraoperatively by clips placement for radiotherapy (RT) optimization.
METHODS: This prospective study included 25 patients who had breast conservation. Titanium clips were used intraoperatively to mark the SLNBa. All patients had 3D-conformal RT using standard (STgF) or high tangential fields (HTgF). Axillary levels, SLNBa, and organs at risk were contoured on a CT scan. Dose distribution and overlap between TgF and target volumes were analyzed.
RESULTS: The average doses delivered to axilla levels I-III and SLNBa were 25, 5, 2, and 33 Gy, respectively. The average dose delivered to SLNBa was higher using HTgF with better coverage of the axilla. Only 12 of 25 patients (48 %) had their SLNBa completely covered by the TgF. There was no impact of TgF size on ipsilateral lung dose. The mean heart dose delivered using STgF was lower than HTgF.
CONCLUSIONS: In the era of SLNB, axilla and SNLBa RT technique has to be standardized to deliver adequate dose. We recommend the use of HTgF or direct axillary RT techniques (such as in AMAROS trial) in patients with metastases in SLN without ALND completion, when only TgF are expected to cure potential residual disease in the axilla.