Context: Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) is frequently used to stage the axilla preoperatively in patients with primary breast carcinoma. In the light of the ACOSOG-Z0011 and AMAROS trials that specified sentinel lymph node biopsy as an inclusion criterion, the role of FNAB in axillary staging is changing. Objective: This article will review the diagnostic accuracy of FNAB in staging of the axilla in patients with primary breast carcinoma. The efficacy of axillary FNAB compared with core-needle biopsy will be evaluated. The evolving approach to staging of the axilla, in the light of ACOSOG-Z0011 and AMAROS trials, will be discussed. Data Sources: Data were sourced from published peer-reviewed articles in PubMed (US National Library of Medicine) and published guidelines including the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Breast Cancer and those from the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO), Union for International Cancer (UICC), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. Conclusions: FNAB of the axilla is almost 100% specific with a sensitivity between 40 and 90%. A positive FNAB reduces the need for a second axillary procedure by up to 20% with reduced morbidity and cost. The recent ACOSOG-Z0011 and AMAROS trials have reduced the use of FNAB axilla in American protocols, but it remains the standard of care in Europe.

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