Cancer Treatment: Breast Cancer Surgery Could Become Less Invasive

Breast cancer treatment could become less invasive, according to a new study.

According to a new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, some women may not need to have a painful procedure called axillary lymph node dissection. This procedure aims to remove nodes around tumors that could also be cancerous. However, it is often painful and could cause infection or lymphedema.

Women really dread the axillary dissection, said chief investigator Dr. Giuliano, head of surgical oncology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., according to the New York Times. They fear lymphedema. Theres numbness, shoulder pain, and some have limitation of motion. There are a fair number of serious complications. Women know it.

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.

"The impact of this study is that now we have data showing even when there's lymph node involvement, the value of removing more lymph nodes is not apparent," explains Dr. Jennifer Gass of Women and Infants Hospital in Providence.

Print Article