Some breast cancer patients should not undergo lymph node removal, study shows

Posted Feb. 09, 2011, at 8:10 a.m.

For many women with  breast cancer, the routine practice of removing cancerous lymph nodes from under the arm provides little or no medical benefit, the New York Times reports today.  For over 100 years, surgeons have been removing cancerous nodes in the believe that it would help stop the cancer from spreading or recurring. But a new study from the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan shows otherwise.

“[R]esearchers report that for women who meet certain criteria — about 20 percent of patients, or 40,000 women a year in the United States — taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage. It does not change the treatment plan, improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur. And it can cause complications like infection and lymphedema, a chronic swelling in the arm that ranges from mild to disabling.”

For some surgeons, the idea that less treatment may actually be better for their patients will be hard to embrace, the Times reports. Read the whole story here.

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