Background: Male breast cancer accounts for < 1% of breast cancers. Sentinel lymph node (SLN) operation is commonly used in the evaluation of female breast cancer patients. The purpose of this study was to determine whether SLN operation is as feasible and accurate in male patients compared with female patients. Study design: Between 1999 and 2005, 30 men and 2,784 women underwent SLN operation. Clinical and pathologic data were reviewed and statistical analysis performed. Results: Men presented at an older age (p = 0.005) and with larger tumors than women (p = 0.04). The SLN was identified in 100% of men and in 98.3% of women (p = NS). The mean number of SLNs harvested was 3.5 in men and 3.0 in women (p = NS). The incidence of positive SLNs was higher in men (37.0% versus 22.3%), although this did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.1). In patients with a positive SLN there were additional non-SLNs positive in 62.5% of men, compared with 20.7% in women (p = 0.01). The median size of the largest lymph node metastasis was 10 mm in men and 3 mm in women (p = 0.03). Conclusions: SLN operation in clinically node-negative men is feasible and accurate. Male breast cancer patients present at an older age and with larger tumors than female breast cancer patients. Male patients have higher nodal tumor burden reflected in a larger size of nodal metastasis and increased risk of harboring additional disease in axillary lymph nodes when the SLN is positive. Intraoperative SLN evaluation should be considered in the surgical management of male breast cancer.
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