How important is lymph node dissection in the treatment of breast cancer?

Dr. Cary Hsu, MD
About 25% of women who have a lymph node dissection have side effects, so it’s an operation to be avoided for some women. In a study of women with small breast cancers who underwent lumpectomy and lymph node dissection, it was found that their survival rate was the same as for women who did not have the axillary dissection, so for some women it’s okay to omit this step. One of the reasons is that women who have lumpectomies also have radiation therapy, which may kill the cancer in the lymph nodes. Another reason is that it’s not true for every woman that the cancer will spread to other organs. The bottom line is that for some women lymph node dissection can be omitted.

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