In a welcome new trend in the field of cancer surgery, it may now be possible to treat people with less invasive surgery than before.
Whereas breast cancer patients would earlier have had all their lymph nodes removed surgically, comparable results may be obtained from selective surgery, where fewer lymph nodes are removed.
A large scale study has been able to demonstrate that this more invasive surgery is not really required for cancer patients to live longer.
Many doctors believe in taking the precaution of removing all the lymph nodes to control the cancer better in the belief that this gives women a better shot at staying alive. However this can result in severe side effects, including nerve damage.
It is possible to use a different kind of less aggressive surgery that removes only the sentinel lymph nodes under the arm, or the first set of lymph nodes to treat women in the early stages of cancer.
The study examined the impact of both types of surgery on women and their survival rates and it was found that 8 years after surgery, there was no difference in the survival rates of the two groups of cancer patients – those who had had the more aggressive surgery and those who had the less aggressive surgery.