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Planar Tc99m – sestamibi scintimammography should be considered cautiously in the axillary evaluation of breast cancer protocols: Results of an international multicenter trial

Teresa Massardo1*, Omar Alonso2, Augusto Llamas-Ollier3, Levin Kabasakal4, Uma Ravishankar5, Rossana Morales6, Lucía Delgado2 and Ajit K Padhy7

Author Affiliations

1 Nuclear Medicine, University of Chile Clinical Hospital, Santiago, Chile

2 Nuclear Medicine Centre and Medical Oncology Department, Hospital de Clínicas, University of La República, Montevideo, Uruguay

3 Nuclear Medicine Department, National Cancer Institute, Bogotá, Colombia

4 Nuclear Medicine Department, Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty, Istanbul University, Turkey

5 Nuclear Medicine Department, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, India

6 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Neoplastic Disease Institute and Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy, Lima, Peru

7 Medicine Section, Department of Human Health, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria

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BMC Nuclear Medicine 2005, 5:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2385-5-4

Published: 27 July 2005



Lymph node status is the most important prognostic indicator in breast cancer in recently diagnosed primary lesion. As a part of an interregional protocol using scintimammography with Tc99m compounds, the value of planar Tc99m sestamibi scanning for axillary lymph node evaluation is presented. Since there is a wide range of reported values, a standardized protocol of planar imaging was performed.


One hundred and forty-nine female patients were included prospectively from different regions. Their mean age was 55.1 ± 11.9 years. Histological report was obtained from 2.987 excised lymph nodes from 150 axillas. An early planar chest image was obtained at 10 min in all patients and a delayed one in 95 patients, all images performed with 740–925 MBq dose of Tc99m sestamibi. Blind lecture of all axillary regions was interpreted by 2 independent observers considering any well defined focal area of increased uptake as an involved axilla. Diagnostic values, 95% confidence intervals [CI] and also likelihood ratios (LR) were calculated.


Node histology demonstrated tumor involvement in 546 out of 2987 lymph nodes. Sestamibi was positive in 30 axillas (25 true-positive) and negative in 120 (only 55 true-negative). The sensitivity corresponded to 27.8% [CI = 18.9–38.2] and specificity to 91.7% [81.6–97.2]. The positive and negative LR were 3.33 and 0.79, respectively. There was no difference between early and delayed images. Sensitivity was higher in patients with palpable lesions.


This work confirmed that non tomographic Tc99m sestamibi scintimammography had a very low detection rate for axillary lymph node involvement and it should not be applied for clinical assessment of breast cancer.