Big Changes in Breast Cancer Care
The new study, which examined data from 900 women, showed no difference in 5 year survival rates between women with lymph nodes removed and those who did not. These results will change the way we practice medicine.
Cancer is found in lymph nodes in about 1/3 of the 200,000 women with breast cancer in the United States each year. Even women who have lumpectomy rather than mastectomy, have undergone lymph node removal. To spare women the complications, doctors sample one "sentinal" node and continue removing them if that shows cancer. This study shows there is no advantage to removing additional nodes, even if cancer is found.
It should be noted that this study only applies to women with T1 or T2 tumors, meaning small and with no enlarged nodes that could be felt. It also excluded women with other know metastasis.
But 60-70% of women with breast cancer found in lymph nodes may not need to have those nodes removed and they will be spared additional surgery and complications.