New research suggests that breast cancer patients who experience even the slightest spread of the cancer to a lymph node may have a much higher risk of the cancer recurring years later and may require more treatment than surgery. The new study contradicts current medical practice and will undoubtedly lead to a change in treatment regimens. Presently, women with “micro tumors” are given estrogen-blocking drugs, chemotherapy, or a combination of both. The new findings challenge that treatment method since it suggests a recurrence of cancer somewhere in the body in the subsequent five years. According to the Associated Press article, several doctors believe the findings are significant. “This took an area that was very gray and I think made it black and white,” said Dr. Linda Vahdat, director of breast cancer research at Weill Cornell Medical College and an adviser for the breast cancer patient Web site of ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “I think it will influence treatment,” she said of the study. “If we’re considering treating the patient, we probably should.” Dr. Daniel Hayes, director of breast cancer treatment at the University of Michigan, agreed. “It really does look like our biases are wrong,” he said. “For the first time, it suggests that isolated tumor cells or micrometastases do have biological significance.” Results of the study are published in today’s edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.
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