[to top of second column]
Larger tumors in lymph nodes already trigger further treatment. A micro tumor is a cluster of cells less than 2 millimeters -- smaller than one-tenth of an inch. Most, but not all, doctors would treat these, too. Isolated tumor cells are even tinier -- "you can essentially count them" in a tissue sample, Winer said -- and do not typically spur further treatment under current guidelines.
The Dutch researchers compared patients based on whether they received treatment beyond surgery and whether cancer of various amounts was found in a lymph node.
In most cases, breast cancer doesn't return after surgery. Among women in the study who were given no additional treatment, 86 percent of those with no cancer in lymph nodes were free of cancer five years later. Only 76 percent of those with micro tumors and 77 percent of those with isolated cancer cells were cancer-free.
That translates to a roughly 50 percent greater risk of recurrence if any sign of cancer was present in a node.
Also, women with micro tumors or stray cells who were given additional treatment had a 43 percent lower risk of a cancer recurrence than similar women not treated beyond surgery.
The differences should lead doctors to reconsider guidelines for how tumors are classified, which guides the amount of treatment a woman receives, the authors write. Now, a micro tumor is considered "node positive" cancer, warranting further treatment, while isolated cells are called "node negative."
A new version of the guidelines is due out soon, Hayes said.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Recent articles
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor