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DISSECTION NOT NEEDED

MANY WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER DON’T NEED TO HAVE ALL THE LYMPH NODES IN THEIR ARMPIT REMOVED, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS

Time was when breast cancer surgery removed not only both breasts but sometimes underlying muscle and the lymph nodes around the breast and in the armpit, known in medical parlance as the axilla.  Now new studies demonstrate that removing all those lymph nodes may not improve survival.  Ben Park, a breast cancer expert at Johns Hopkins, describes the results.

PARK: Doing a full axillary dissection after finding a positive lymph node on a sentinel lymph node biopsy may not be necessary.  There are some caveats: these are more early stage breast cancers.  For the majority of women in this country they’re going to fall into the category of not having big, bulky disease.  Those are the type of women that potentially could be spared from the morbidity of a full axillary dissection, which is not trivial.  This is a really great study that we could potentially spare many, many women from the morbidity of a full axillary dissection.   :29

When all the lymph nodes are removed women can develop painful swelling of the arm and a higher risk for infection in a condition called lymphedema.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


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