The results of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that women with early stage breast cancer that has spread to their lymph nodes may not benefit from the total removal of their lymph node glands, which was previously thought to be the case.
“The results of the trial present new evidence that more extensive lymph node surgery for women with early stage breast cancer may not be better,” said MUSC’s Dr. Megan Baker, Medical Director of Comprehensive Breast Care at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. “Although historical teaching and research have supported the total removal of lymph node glands in a woman’s underarm area when cancer is identified in the first one, the sentinel node, this large study challenges that thinking. The results show that extensive removal of additional glands in this specific patient group in no way improved how long a woman lived or the chances that her cancer would come back in the underarm area, but in fact led to more complications such as arm swelling called lymphedema. The study further underscores the importance of interdisciplinary care, clinical trial support, and patient participation in clinical trials.”
For more information see:
Dr. Megan Baker Discussing This Topic on Channel 5
“Breast Cancer and Lymph Nodes: Q. & A.” in the New York Times
“Removing fewer lymph nodes doesn’t hurt breast cancer survival,” on CNNHealth.com