Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care
February 21, 2011
A new study has shown that many women with early breast cancer do not actually benefit from the removal of armpit lymph nodes, a painful procedure that has been routine practice for 100 years.
For about 20 percent of patients, removing the nodes has no advantage -- it neither improves survival nor makes the cancer less likely to recur. What's more, the procedure can cause complications such as infection and lymphedema.
According to the New York Times:
"Experts say that the new findings, combined with similar ones from earlier studies, should change medical practice for many patients. Some centers have already acted on the new information ... But more widespread change may take time, experts say, because the belief in removing nodes is so deeply ingrained."
In separate news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after an intensive review of known cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in breast implant recipients, has issued a statement warning that women with implants may have an increased risk of developing the cancer.
FDA and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons are working together to establish a registry of ALCL patients who have breast implants. FDA scientists hope the registry provides enough information to better understand the risks.
According to the FDA:
"In the cases reported, ALCL was typically diagnosed years after the implant surgery. In most of these cases, the women were diagnosed after they observed changes in the look or feel of the area surrounding the implant."