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Study: Lymph Nodes Provide More Accurate Breast Cancer Prognosis

Authors say focus should be on tumor subtype in lymph nodes, not in breast tissue (July 29)

Examining the lymph nodes of patients with breast cancer may provide a more accurate prognosis than simply examining the excised tumor, say Swedish researchers.

According to a new study conducted at Lund University, the subtype of a breast tumor may indicate less aggressive disease, while the lymph-node subtype can give a different and more worrying picture. In these cases, it is the lymph nodes that provide the correct prognosis.

The study involved 500 women who underwent surgery for early-stage breast cancer. Approximately one-third of the women showed traces of tumor in their lymph nodes.

“Sometimes the molecular study showed the same subtype in the breast tissue and in the lymph nodes. But sometimes the types were different. And when we investigated the outcomes for the women 10 years later, the prognosis followed the subtype that was present in the lymph nodes and not the one in the breast,” said investigator Dr. Lisa Rydén.

Therefore, she explained, when surgeons examine only the breast tissue, there is a risk that the tumor will be found to be of a low-risk type, which affects decisions on further treatment. Meanwhile, the lymph nodes may show signs of more aggressive disease, which goes undiscovered.

“If, on the other hand, we start routinely analyzing the lymph nodes as well, we can treat women in such cases with additional cytostatic and targeted drugs after their operation. This could prevent later recurrence of the disease” Rydén said.

Source: Lund University; July 29, 2013.

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