Accurate Breast Cancer Prognosis

Once a woman (and sometimes men) receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, often the first question is “How bad is it?” People want to know their chances of survival and how long they can expect to live. With the commonness of this type of cancer everyone knows a survivor and sadly many people also know of someone who lost the battle or had the cancer spread. Treatment questions are often secondary to the questions about prognosis.

When the lymph nodes are removed and examined the prognosis tends to be more accurate. There is no way to predict the future when it comes to cancer because people who are expected to live sometimes don’t and those who are expected to die sometimes don’t.

Cancer Cells in Breast Cancer Tumors

The cells in the tumor will tell a lot about the type of cancer. For a long time this was thought to be enough yet the following would occur:

  • Cancer would reoccur after treatment
  • Was more aggressive than originally diagnosed
  • Spreads unexpectedly
  • Different type of cancer discovered
  • Treatment unsuccessful

In a recent study from the Lund University in Sweden showed that the lymph nodes might have more accurate information regarding the breast cancer cells than the tumor. This could be because the nodes filter out and destroy pathogens in the body. Lymph node biopsy can only be done when they are removed.

Lymphadenectomy to Determine Type of Breast Cancer Present

To give a more accurate diagnosis by examining the lymph nodes to determine the type of cancer present and if it has spread, they need to be removed. A biopsy will lead to better treatment and a more accurate prognosis. When the nodes are removed (lymphadenectomy) to do a biopsy, there will be some side effects. There are the ones that are common to any surgery or invasive procedure like soreness and infection but when lymph nodes are missing there are other possible side effects. The following can occur after they are removed:

  • Seroma – fluid buildup were it was removed
  • Increased infection – the nodes are not available to fight and filter pathogens
  • Lymphedema – limb swelling near site of removed nodes

Activity and message can help lymph to move to other lymph nodes and reduce the risk of swelling. The benefits of the knowledge gained needs to be weighed against the possible side affects

Keeping Balance with New Discoveries

The study provides helpful and useful information but it must be kept in perspective.

When additional cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, it doesn’t instantly means that the nodes need to be removed. Sometimes nothing will be done differently because the nodes have everything under control. It may even be possible that removing them will allow the cancer cells to travel and cause additional problems because the lymph nodes aren’t present to stop them. While they are in place they can do their job and those more aggressive cancer cells may never get any further.

More studies need to be done to prevent over treatment that can cause other health issues. The severity of cancer treatment is not without risks so all information should be partnered up with common sense and trust in that “gut feeling”, which to some is known as God. This way an informed decision can be made.

Looking into preventing breast cancer is easier than treating it. Be aware of the effects of foods, medications, hormone replacement, and other risk factors. A healthy immune system can help keep all pathogens and cancers in check.