Compared with five years ago, women with breast cancer and just one cancerous lymph node are less likely to have most underarm lymph nodes removed, a new study reports.
The results of the analysis of data from 2.7 million breast cancer patients highlight a major change in breast cancer management as a result of recommendations from the American College of Surgeons.
The recommendations are based on a study published more than four years ago. It found most early stage breast cancer patients with a tumor in one lymph node didn't benefit from removal of the remaining lymph nodes in the underarm area.
Specifically, the original study -- published in 2010 -- found that women who had all their lymph nodes removed did not have lower rates of cancer recurrence or better five-year survival rates than those who kept their lymph nodes and were closely monitored.
This new study found that the proportion of early stage breast cancer patients who didn't have all their underarm lymph nodes removed after cancer was detected in one lymph node increased from 23 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2011.
The findings were released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
"As far as I know, our study is the first to show that the findings from the [2010 study] have changed clinical practice for breast cancer patients nationwide," lead author Dr. Katharine Yao, director of the Breast Surgical Program at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill., said in a journal news release.
The 2010 study "has had a huge impact," added Yao, who is also a clinical associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
-- Robert Preidt