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.
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.
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.
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