Axillary Lymph Nodes Removal Doesn't Improve Breast Cancer Survival
Removal of axillary lymph nodes doesn't improve breast cancer survival for some women, according to a new study.
The study found that people with early-stage breast cancer that spread to a nearby lymph node fared just as well after treatment without the removal of additional lymph nodes in the armpit area.
Breast cancer surgery currently includes the removal of axillary lymph nodes (those in the armpit area) so doctors can check for evidence that the cancer has spread. However, this procedure can cause swelling and stiffness in the arm.
The study examined more than 800 patients with early-stage tumors. All the patients had only part of their breast removed in a lumpectomy. Additionally, they had radiation therapy and some had chemotherapy.
In about half of the women, however, doctors also removed at least 10 axillary lymph nodes from each woman. Cancer was found in the axillary lymph nodes in 27% of the women in the study.
However, the study found that the five-year survival rate was 91.8% in the women with axillary-node removal, compared with 92.5% who did not have those nodes removed.
"This is really a move toward less radical surgery" for breast cancer patients, said Dr. Armando E. Giuliano of the John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica. He and his researchers conducted the study.
Lymph nodes are part of the bodys immune system They are typically affected when a nearby cancer spreads.
The findings add to a collection of studies that "have shown that less surgery combined with more radiation and chemotherapy have improved survival for women with breast cancer," said Dr. Grant Walter Carlson and Dr. William C. Wood of Emory University in Atlanta, the authors of a commentary accompanying the study.