BACKGROUND: Recent data from ACOSOG Z0011 and NSABP B32 trials suggested no need for axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) in patients with micrometastatic involvement of the sentinel lymph node (SLN). The low rate of axillary recurrence was attributed to the axilla coverage by the tangential fields (TgFs) irradiation and systemic therapy. This study aimed to evaluate dose distribution and coverage of the axilla levels I-II and the SLN area.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: One hundred and nine patients were analyzed according to three groups: group 1 (50 Gy; n = 18), group 2 (60 Gy; n = 34) and group 3 (66 Gy; n = 57). Patients were treated using the standard (STgF; n = 22) or high (HTgF; n = 87) TgF.
RESULTS: The median doses delivered to level I using HTgF versus STgF were 33 and 20 Gy (P = 0.0001). The mean dose delivered to the SLN area was only 28 Gy. Additionally, the SLN area was totally included in the HTgF in 1 out of 12 patients who had intraoperative clip placement in the SNL area.
CONCLUSIONS: TgFs provide a limited coverage of the axilla and the SNLB area. This information should be considered when only TgFs are planned to target the axilla in patients with a positive SLN without ALND. Standardization of locoregional radiotherapy in this situation is urgently needed.