OBJECTIVE. The objective of our study was to report the positive predictive value (PPV) of ultrasound of the axilla to predict pN2 or higher disease in breast cancer patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS. A retrospective study of 559 patients with newly diagnosed invasive breast cancer from 2005 through 2009 was performed. All patients underwent ipsilateral axillary ultrasound for staging purposes. Ultrasound findings were considered suspicious for metastasis if cortical thickening or nonhilar blood flow to the cortex was present. Suspicious lymph nodes were classified on the basis of their features as high, intermediate, or low suspicion. The standard of truth was confirmed pathologically. RESULTS. Either pN2 or pN3 disease was found in 50 of 181 (28%) patients with positive findings on an ultrasound study and 10 of 378 (3%) patients with a negative ultrasound study (p < 0.01). When two or more lymph nodes of high suspicion or a total of three or more lymph nodes of any combination of high suspicion and intermediate suspicion were detected, patients were likely to have pN2 or pN3 disease (PPV, 82%). Either pN2 or pN3 disease was found in two of 122 (2%) patients whose primary cancers were up to 10 mm and 58 of 437 (13%) patients whose primary cancers were larger than 10 mm (p < 0.001). Ultrasound of the patient with tumors larger than 10 mm showing at least two highly suspicious nodes had a PPV of 87% for predicting pN2 or higher disease. CONCLUSION. Ultrasound was useful for predicting pN2 or higher axillary disease in breast cancer patients. Preoperative ultrasound assessment for staging of axillary lymph nodes might help avoid underestimation at sentinel lymph node biopsy.
- Breast cancer
- Lymph node
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging