August 8, 2011

Rethinking Breast Cancer Approach

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows removing lymph nodes because of the presence of microscopic cancer cells found in the sentinel node has no impact on survival among women with early-stage breast cancer.

Researchers studied more than 5,000 women with breast cancer at 126 sites around the country. All the participants underwent breast-conserving surgery and sentinel lymph node dissection. The sentinel lymph node is the one that is closest to the tumor.

Results showed survival outcomes were no different between women who underwent total lymph node removal and those who only had the sentinel lymph node removed.

"This study shows that the presence of tiny sentinel lymph node metastases has no bearing on survival outcomes," Armando E. Giuliano, M.D., of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was quoted as saying.

Researchers say this finding could spare women the pain and side effects of comprehensive lymph node removal. Removing lymph nodes can cause complications such as lymphedema, which is a chronic and often painful swelling in the arm that can be debilitating.

"Treating the patient doesn't end with stopping the cancer," Dr. Giuliano said. "We want to make sure we maximize the patient's quality of life even after cancer treatment is completed."

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2011