Breast Cancer Study Questions Lymph Node Removal
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that some women with early-stage breast cancer may be cured without the need to remove multiple lymph nodes, which has been the standard practice.
Breast cancer surgery traditionally includes removal of lymph nodes near the tumor so that doctors can check for evidence that the disease has spread. However, a new study found that people with early-stage breast cancer that has spread to a nearby lymph node fared just as well after treatment without the removal of additional lymph nodes in the armpit area.
Taking out those extra nodes (axillary nodes) has a distinct downside because it can leave some women with swelling and stiffness in the arm.
The study examined 891 patients who had an early-stage tumor. All of the patients had their tumors removed via lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy. Most of the women also had chemotherapy.
All the women in the study had evidence of cancer in the one or two nodes closest to the tumor. In about half of the women, however, doctors also removed at least 10 of the extra lymph nodes. The average number of nodes removed was 17.
Cancer was found in the axillary lymph nodes in 27% of the women in the study. Nevertheless, after an average of about six years, the study showed little difference in cancer recurrence or survival between the women who had many nodes removed and those who had only the sentinel nodes removed.