A new study has found found that for certain women with breast cancer, removal of cancerous lymph nodes is quite unnecessary, and may even be harmful.
One by one the old surgical shibboleths about breast cancer are falling by the wayside, first radical mastectomies, and now this. A doctor is even quoted as saying “I have a feeling we’ve been doing a lot of harm” by routinely removing lymph nodes that did not need to be removed and causing unnecessary suffering for thousands of women who developed complications such as infections and lymphedema.
The study has found that for women with early stage breast cancers "about 20 percent of patients, or 40,000 women a year in the United States — taking out cancerous nodes has no advantage. It does not change the treatment plan, improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur."