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How can lymph nodes be involved in breast cancer?

Dede Bonner
Health Education

Lymph nodes are bean-shaped filters for your immune system that collect and destroy bacteria and viruses. Their white blood cells (WBCs) fight infections and cancer.

Some breast cancers spread to the lymph nodes under your arm. When the lymph nodes are involved in breast cancer, they are called “positive.” When lymph nodes are free of cancer, they are called “negative.”

There are three types of lymph node involvement:

1. Minimal (or microscopic) lymph node involvement. Nodes contain only a small number of cancer cells.

2. Significant (or macroscopic) involvement. A particular lymph node or group of nodes is cancerous. These nodes can often be felt by hand or seen without a microscope.

3. Extra-capsular extension. A tumor takes over a whole lymph node and moves beyond the wall of the lymph node into the surrounding tissue.

Knowing  how many of your lymph nodes are affected and the type of lymph node involvement you have will help you and your doctor plan the best treatment regime to fight your cancer.

The 10 Best Questions for Surviving Breast Cancer: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health

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The 10 Best Questions for Surviving Breast Cancer: The Script You Need to Take Control of Your Health

A good mind knows the right answers...but a great mind knows the right questions. And never are the Best Questions more important than after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Drawing on cutting-edge...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.