Background: The distinct histologic appearance of invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) may pose diagnostic challenges for sentinel lymph node (SLN) analysis. We evaluated the impact of cytokeratin immunohistochemistry (IHC) on SLN assessment in ILC and its contribution to pathologic nodal upstaging. Methods: We identified ILC patients treated with SLN surgery at our institution between September 2008 and August 2021. IHC for SLN assessment was employed at the discretion of the pathologist. Differences between groups evaluated with and without IHC were compared using Chi-square tests. Results: Overall, 608 cases of ILC were identified in patients who underwent SLN surgery. IHC was used in 301 cases (49.5%) and was not associated with cT category, pT category, or tumor grade. Use of IHC increased detection of SLN+ disease when isolated tumor cells (ITCs) were included in the analysis (35.9% with IHC vs. 21.2% without IHC; p < 0.001). There was no effect on nodal upstaging to micrometastatic disease (pN1mi) or greater (21.9% with IHC vs. 21.2% without IHC; p = 0.82). IHC did not increase the number of positive SLNs detected (median 1 with and without IHC) nor did it increase axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) rates (11.6% with IHC vs. 15.3% without IHC; p = 0.18). Conclusion: IHC improved detection of pN0(i+) disease among ILC patients undergoing SLN surgery. IHC did not increase upstaging to pN1mi or higher categories of nodal disease, detection of a greater number of positive SLNs, or ALND rates. Our data suggest routine use of IHC for SLN assessment in ILC patients does not add clinical utility.
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