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Limited lymph node removal for certain breast cancer does not appear to result in poorer survival
Date:2/8/2011

CHICAGO 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 JAMA.

Axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) has been part of breast cancer surgery since the use of radical mastectomy and reliably identifies nodal metastases. "Sentinel lymph node dissection (SLND) accurately identifies nodal metastasis of early breast cancer, but it is not clear whether further nodal dissection [removal] affects survival," the authors write. "ALND, as a means for achieving local disease control, carries an indisputable and often unacceptable risk of complications such as seroma [a mass or swelling caused by the localized accumulation of serum within a tissue or organ], infection, and lymphedema [condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling]."

Armando E. Giuliano, M.D., of the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center, Santa Monica, Calif., and colleagues conducted a study to determine the effects of ALND on overall survival in patients with SLN metastases treated with lumpectomy (surgical removal of a tumor without removing much of the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes) and radiation therapy. The trial was conducted at 115 sites and enrolled patients from May 1999 to December 2004. Patients were women with T1-T2 (stage of tumor) invasive breast cancer, no palpable adenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes), and 1 to 2 SLNs containing metastases.

Patients with SLN metastases identified by SLND were randomized to undergo ALND or no further axillary treatment. Those randomized
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Contact: Greg Harrison
gregory.harrison@stjohns.org
310-829-8010
JAMA and Archives Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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