About 92% of women with early-stage breast cancers that have spread to a nearby lymph node who have lumpectomies and radiation to treat their tumors will be alive 5 years later, regardless of the number of lymph nodes they have removed from under their arms, says a WebMD article based on a study published this week in JAMA.
Physicians randomly assigned 891 women, all whom had breast tumors 2 inches or less in diameter that had spread to their lymph nodes, into 2 groups. In one group, surgeons removed only the sentinel nodes, the first 1 or 2 lymph nodes to which cancer had spread. Women in the other group had at least 10 more lymph nodes under the arm removed. Women in both groups had lumpectomies to remove their tumors and radiation of their entire breasts.
At 5 years, the survival rate for patients in the group that had their axillary lymph nodes removed was 82%. Eighty four percent of those who had only their sentinel lymph nodes removed were alive at the five-year mark.
"I think we should celebrate the progress we've made in breast cancer, not only in the more conservative treatment of it but also in our ability to treat systemic metastasis," Grant W. Carlson, MD, a breast cancer surgeon who co-authored an editorial that accompanied the study, told WebMD.