As you may have heard on the nightly news or read in the newspaper this morning, the cancer community learned of some groundbreaking research this week. The Journal of the American Medical Association released a study yesterday that finds that many women with early breat cancer no longer need to have cancerous lymph nodes surgically removed from the armpit. Also known as an axillary lymph node disssection, this procedure has been common practice for over a century. Surgeons believed it would prolong women’s lives by preventing the cancer from spreading or recurring.
Grant W. Carlson, MD, a breast cancer surgeon at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta and one of the co-authors of an editorial that acompanied the study cautions that there are still certain circumstances where women and their doctors may decide to still do an axillary lymph node dissection. For example, in later-stage cancers or in cases where only part of the breast is treated with radiation this procedure may still be necessary. However, researchers report that for women who meet certain criteria – about 20% of patients, or 40,000 women a year in the US – taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage. It does not change the treatment plan, improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur. This is exciting news to the breast cancer community, as this procedure can cause complications like infection and lymphedema.
The Cancer Support Community encourages all people impacted by cancer to play an active role in their own cancer care. If you believe these latest research findings could impact you or a loved one, please talk with your doctor. To learn more about the Cancer Support Community’s breast cancer resources visit http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/mm/Learn-About/cancertype/Quality-of-Life–Breast-Cancer.aspx or to learn more about the Cancer Support Community’s own research of the social and emotional needs of breast cancer surviovrs, visit https://csc.breastcancerregistry.org/.
To learn more about about JAMA’s groundbreaking findings and what they meay mean for your next doctor’s visit, please refer to the sources below:
Journal of the American Medical Association