The New York Times just published an excellent article (read it here!) about a new study which shows that lymph node surgery for breast cancer is not always necessary. This is really important stuff because doctors have been removing lymph nodes for over a hundred years with the belief that it will help stop the spread of the cancer, or even prevent it from coming back.

Now, researchers are saying that women who have their lymph nodes removed are at no more of an advantage than those who don’t. In fact, removing the nodes seems to serve more bad than good:

…women in the study who had the nodes taken out were far more likely (70 percent versus 25 percent) to have complications like infections, abnormal sensations and fluid collecting in the armpit. They were also more likely to have lymphedema.

Later, it talks a little more about lymphedema, saying:

After armpit surgery, 20 percent to 30 percent of women develop lymphedema, Dr. Port said, and radiation may increase the rate to 40 percent to 50 percent. Physical therapy can help, but there is no cure.

Hopefully this will help prevent more cases of lymphedema, as well as ensure a more comfortable and successful recovery for these women. This makes me very optimistic for the future of cancer treatment, although my heart goes out to those who have had the lymph node surgery only to develop lymphedema as a result.

What do you think, lymphies? What does this mean for cancer treatment? What does this news mean to you?