Less-invasive breast cancer treatment shows promise
Women diagnosed with breast cancer may now have a less-invasive surgical treatment option, likely sparing them serious complications.
Research announced Wednesday shows a simpler surgery, removing fewer lymph nodes, may be just as effective as the more standard, but aggressive surgery.
Kris Amundson remember clearly the day she was diagnosed.
"It was the worst day of my life, the day I got the diagnosis," she said. "I was just terrified. You hear the word cancer and you naturally assume that it means, you're going to die."
Amundson's doctor quickly moved her through the treatment process. Surgeons removed a tumor and fifteen lymph nodes in her armpit in a procedure called axillary lymph node dissection, or ALND.
But experts have known that such an aggressive form of treatment can come with complications, including recurring infections in the arm, recurring swelling, and recurring pain in the shoulder.
Research released Wednesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association found ALND may not be necessary for all patients. In 92 percent of case , sentinel lymph node dissection, or SLND, was just as effective at saving the patient's life and preventing cancer's return within five years.
In SLND, doctors remove only the one or two nodes where the cancer has spread. Experts say this represents another major turn in the evolution of breast cancer treatment.
"This is important information," said Dr. Robert Siegel, an oncologist with George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates. "This is not just one of 100 studies this year, this will be a practice-changing study."
For Kris Amundson, now 18 years cancer free, it's a big difference compared to when she was diagnosed.
"I just hope that that makes women less afraid of this disease and more willing to be aggressive in making sure that they're diagnosed as early as possible and treated," Amundson said.
The women in this study only needed partial mastectomies and didn't have palpable lymph nodes -- those that can be felt by hand.
Researchers say this treatment may not be right for women with advanced cancers and in need of full mastectomies.
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