More on Lymph Nodes
The news about the unnecessary removal of axillary nodes continues to rock the breast cancer world. I don't know so much about what the doctors are saying, but I certainly am hearing plenty from my patients. There are a few who express relief that they did have this surgery because they believe they would be worried about known positive lymph nodes that were allowed to remain. More, however, express some degree of frustration of sadness or anger or marvel that they had a full axillary dissection due to a positive sentinel node--and now they learn that it likely won't make a difference in their future health. I met with a lovely women yesterday who had this surgery only a month ago. She is particularly distressed because her mother had a mastectomy and then disabling and disfiguring lymphedema. She is more worried for herself about possible lymphedema than about the cancer.
This is a good collection of questions and answers from The New York Times. Here is a brief excerpt and then the link to read more:
Breast Cancer and Lymph Nodes: Q. and A.
By THE NEW YORK TIMES An article in Wednesday's Times describes how a routine
procedure for the treatment of early breast cancer — the surgical removal of cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit — has been found unnecessary for many patients. The finding turns 100 years of standard medical practice on its head.
Today the author of the article, Denise Grady, is taking questions about the finding and its implications. Please post your questions in the Comments box below.
From what I understand, removing even only one or two lymph nodes can result in chronic swelling of the arm. How certain is it that taking fewer nodes will result in a measurable reduction in the risk of developing lymphedema? — Claudia Boyle, Mount Prospect, Ill.
There is still a risk of lymphedema even after only a few nodes are taken for sentinel biopsy, but the risk is much lower than when many nodes are removed.