Early stage breast cancer victims who undergo minimal amount of lymph node removal do as well as those who undergo extensive surgery.
Researchers examined data from women whose breast cancer had spread to a nearby lymph node and studied survival rates among those who had the first lymph node, or sentinel lymph node, removed compared to those who had lymph nodes from the armpit removed, known as axillary lymph node dissection (ALND).
Their results showed that "do not benefit from the addition of ALND in terms of local control, disease-free survival, or overall survival, and that ALND may no longer be justified for certain patients," the study said.
"Implementation of this practice change would improve clinical outcomes in thousands of women each year by reducing the complications associated with ALND and improving quality of life with no diminution in survival."
The California-based study included 891 patients who were followed from 1999 to 2004.
The limited surgical intervention resulted in five-year overall survival rates of 92.5 percent compared to 91.8 percent among those who had more lymph nodes taken out.
Disease-free survival was also similar across the two groups, with 83.9 percent in the sentinel node group and 82.2 in the group that had more extensive intervention.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.