Doctors Mistreating Lymph System of Breast Cancer Patients, New Study Finds

A new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association has important implications for how doctors treat breast cancer.

Until now, women in the early stages of breast cancer are often prescribed a painful surgical procedure to remove cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit.  The study, which included 891 women from 115 medical centers, concludes that for many of these patients, the procedure is unnecessary and even harmful.

Researchers found that removing the lymph nodes did not improve survival rates or make cancer less likely to recur. Removing a lymph node or two is helpful in making a diagnosis, but attempts to remove all cancerous lymph nodes in an effort to eradicate the disease are not effective  They also pointed out that the procedure could cause complications such as lymphedema or infection.

Spread the Word

Some cancer centers have already started changing their treatment plan, but experts says widespread change will take time. This article in the New York Times points out multiple reasons why the new findings will meet resistance.

First, the belief that cancerous nodes must be removed is deeply ingrained amongst doctors.  Doctors and patients find it easier to accept studies that recommend more treatment, but are hesitant to accept recommendations for less treatment.  It can be comforting to be doing something, even if that something is shown to be ineffective.

The surgeon who led the study said:

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but it will. It’s hard for us as surgeons and medical oncologists and radiation oncologists to accept that you don’t have to remove the nodes in the armpit.

Cellulite and the Lymphatic System

This study is a fitting topic for CI because the lymphatic system plays a central role in our investigation.  When I write about how important it is for us to pay attention to the lymphatic system, the reality of breast cancer is often in the back of my mind.  Would the rate of breast cancer decrease if more of us started caring for our lymph as part of a cellulite treatment plan?

Right now, a lot of women don’t treat their cellulite because they don’t even think it is possible.  I hope this investigation will help change that.

*This post is part of Monday Mania hosted at The Healthy Home Economist.

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Jo at Jo’s Health Corner says:

It is definitely important to pay attention to the lymphatic system. Fortunately there are many herbs, essential oils, and food that also aid the lymphatic system. My son was born with lymphangioma in his face, and many children end up having severe problems with infections.

Since we changed his diet, added essential oils, herbs and supplements he has become much better. He hasn’t had any infection in almost 10 years. It has also shrunk a lot, and we hope to decrease it further…He is now a healthy football and Track and Field athlete. Apart from the different look in his face, he is not suffering health wise, but we work hard to keep him healthy.

Elizabeth Walling says:

Ugh. Why do we always find out how harmful these procedures are *after* doctors have used them on so many people?

I think that it’s really unfortunate that our current medical establishment views it as completely normal to hack off various body parts whenever a problem develops, without a thought to how seriously this can affect a patient’s health and well being.


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