• We examined the relationship of axillary level of lymph node metastases from clinical stage I and II breast cancer to overall survival and disease-free survival rates in 135 patients who underwent complete axillary lymph node dissection to determine if anatomic level of axillary involvement (I vs II vs III) is an independent prognostic factor. All patients underwent either modified radical mastectomy or lumpectomy with axillary dissection and whole breast radiotherapy for breast cancer. Median follow-up was 6.9 years. We found no difference in overall survival or disease-free survival between patients whose highest or only level of axillary involvement was level I compared with patients whose highest or only level was II. Although patients whose highest level of nodal involvement was III had significantly worse overall survival and disease-free survival rates than patients whose highest nodal involvement was I or II, when patients were stratified by the total number of positive nodes (one to three vs four or more), there was no difference in overall survival or disease-free survival rates between levels I, II, and III. These findings indicate that the level of axillary involvement for stage II breast cancer is not of independent prognostic significance.
(Arch Surg. 1991;126:574-577)