No no, don't go for the nodes
We interrupt Cancer Bitch's complaining about a lost friend to deliver the strange news about the necessity of removing lymph nodes. Apparently surgeons don't need to take them out as often as they've been doing. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports on a study of women with invasive breast cancer who had lumpectomies, radiation and sentinel node biopsies. That means that the lymph node closest to the cancer tumor was removed and examined. Usually doctors have responded to a cancerous node by removing more nodes. The new study shows that women who had a cancerous sentinel node removed only, but no other lymph nodes, had the same survival rate as women who had the same treatment (lumpectomy, radiation) and had 10 or more more lymph nodes removed. The problem with removing multiple nodes is that they increase your risk of lymphedema, which is swelling of the arm. Women with lymphedema are the ones wearing those compression sleeves (and people say they're a drag to wear, even if you cover them with cool designs from My Sassy Sleeve, shown above.)
The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a similar study last month. The American Council on Science and Health noted that the New York Times didn't report on the earlier study. This new report, says the ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, makes it apparent that we have at least two strong studies that show pretty clearly that for certain populations of women with small breast cancers, the survival benefit from radical lymph node removal is outweighed by lymphedema and other complications.
So, Woodman, spare that tree!