Minimally invasive approach may help curtail spread of cancer

Interesting  and a little personally frustrating  to read that new research claims breast cancer patients benefit from a minimally invasive procedure to curtail the spread of cancer after the tumour has been removed. If I had been given the choice (which I wasn’t) at the time, I would certainly have opted for a sentinel node biopsy instead of the full axillary clearance I received. The good news is that I had no nodal involvement, but the nerves were damaged during the surgery and I have numbness in the tips of my fingers and of course, the numbness, soreness and lack of movement in the arm on which the op was performed.

The latest research compared a major operation that removes a portion of the lymph glands along with a breast tumour, and a less invasive procedure that removes a smaller amount of lymph tissue after the primary tumour has been taken out.

“We examined the outcome of nearly 10,000 patients following breast cancer surgery and demonstrated that minimally invasive surgery not only causes far fewer complications but also is more accurate,” said Malcom Kell, a consultant at the Mater Hospital and with the BreastCheck screening programme.

After removing a primary tumour from the breast, a surgeon needs to check if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but removing large sections of lymph brings a risk of complications for the patient, he said.

In recent years, doctors have used a “sentinel node biopsy”, which removes less tissue. “By doing that you reduce the chance of causing a problem for the patient, but the downside is you worry that you will miss something.”

Mr Kell, with John Burke and Mitchel Barry at the Mater and Monica Morrow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, analysed seven trials comparing the procedures. “We have found it’s more accurate to do the sentinel node biopsy – you are more likely to find malignancy in these lymph nodes as opposed to doing the full surgery and removing everything,” he said.

Source: Irish Times Health