Different strategies in marking axillary lymph nodes in breast cancer patients undergoing neoadjuvant medical treatment: a systematic review



Marking of cytology-proven metastatic axillary lymph node in breast cancer patients before neoadjuvant treatment and its subsequent surgical retrieval have been shown to reduce the false-negative rate of sentinel lymph node biopsy. A systematic review was performed to evaluate different strategies in nodal marking and localization.


PubMed, Embase, EBSCOhost, and the Cochrane library literature databases were searched systematically to address the identification rate and retrieval rate of marked axillary lymph nodes. Studies were eligible if they performed nodal marking before neoadjuvant treatment, followed by selective extirpation of these marked axillary lymph nodes in definitive surgery


Fifteen studies with a total of 703 patients were included. Index axillary lymph nodes were marked by clips or tattooed prior to the commencement of neoadjuvant treatment. In our pooled analysis, eighty-eight percent of the clipped nodes and ninety-seven percent of the tattooed nodes were successfully retrieved. Among these patients, seventy-seven percent of these marked axillary lymph nodes were also sentinel lymph nodes.


Marking and selectively removing cytology-proven metastatic axillary lymph nodes after neoadjuvant treatment is feasible. An acceptably high nodal retrieval rate could be achieved using various methods of nodal marking and localization techniques.

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Correspondence to Ava Kwong.

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Man, V., Kwong, A. Different strategies in marking axillary lymph nodes in breast cancer patients undergoing neoadjuvant medical treatment: a systematic review. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-021-06118-6

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  • Breast cancer
  • Neoadjuvant therapy
  • Nodal marking
  • Targeted axillary dissection