New Breast Cancer Studies Not So Intuitive

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The annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology presented two studies that may eventually alter the treatment of women with early-stage breast cancer. In the first study conducted by investigators from the University College of London, 991 women were recruited. All of the women had a "sentinel node" removed which showed the presence of cancer cells, but only half of the women received the standard treatment since the 1990s, the removal of additional lymph nodes. The findings indicate that after five years, there was no difference in survival or disease recurrence between the two groups.

This sounds counterintuitive right off the bat because lymph nodes are the pathway to metastasis, says ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

The second study found that the use of local high dose radiation directly into the breast was as beneficial to survival and disease recurrence as weeks of standard radiation therapy.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross says these studies alone aren t enough to change how we treat breast cancer. Eventually both of these studies may change practice, but if you jump on board with such studies too early, you risk the lives of patients as they may not be reproducible. By not adhering to standard of care practices and avoiding a full dissection, there s a pretty good chance you ll get sued if a woman has a recurrence. He adds, People won t be changing breast surgical practice soon based off just one study.