Denise Grady wrote the above article in the New York Times (8 February 2011):
- Surgeons have been removing lymph nodes from under the arms of breast cancer patients for 100 years, believing it would prolong women’s lives by keeping the cancer from spreading or coming back.
- A new study finds that many women with early breast cancer do not need such painful procedure, although this is the standard or routine procedure adopted by surgeons.
- In the United States about 20 percent of patients, or 40,000 women a year had their lymph nodes removed but benefit nothing from the procedure. It does not improve survival or make the cancer less likely to recur.
- On top of the money spent and the pains, the procedure can cause complications like infection and chronic swelling in the arm that ranges from mild to disabling.
- Experts say that the new findings, combined with similar ones from earlier studies, should change medical practice for many patients. But who want to change? Old habits die hard! “ Such a radical change in thought that it’s been hard for many people to get their heads around it.”
For more, read the following:
A report of the research in J of American Medical Assoc. 2011 Feb 9;305(6):569-75. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21304082.