Latest study finds radical surgery to remove lymph nodes not always necessary

I’ve always had a problem with the fact that I had axillary clearance of my lymph nodes when I now believe a sentinel lymph node biopsy would have been the better option (as it turned out I had no lymph node involvement). 

I now know that a node biopsy is a diagnostic tool rather than, as I was led to believe a curative one, and I am still angry that I was never given that information or choice. Having all my lymph nodes removed has led to a host of problems which have affected me long-term.

Now the latest research showing that limited lymph node removal in early stage breast cancer doesn’t result in poorer survival,  appears to bear this out. The researchers note that removing lymph nodes from the armpit ‘carries an indisputable and often unacceptable risk of complications,’ including infection and chronic and painful swelling of the arm.

Among patients with early-stage breast cancer that had spread to a nearby lymph node and who received treatment that included lumpectomy and radiation therapy, women who just had the sentinel lymph node removed (the first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor) did not have worse survival than women who had more extensive axillary lymph node dissection (surgery to remove lymph nodes found in the armpit), according to a study in the February 9 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

‘This is really a move toward less radical surgery’ for breast cancer patients, Dr Armando Giuliano, lead researcher explained. “That move began several years ago when doctors stopped routinely removing entire breasts and surrounding tissue, except for women with more advanced disease.”

“Implementation of this practice change would improve clinical outcomes in thousands of women each year by reducing the complications associated with ALND and improving quality of life with no diminution in survival.”