Breast cancer can spread through the lymph nodes in the armpit and surgeons in the past have routinely had to remove all nodes, which had the potential to cause significant long term swelling known as lymphodema, pain and restricted shoulder movement.
The new technique enables surgeons to remove the first lymph node, called the sentinel node, that would receive fluid from the tumour. If this is clear it usually means that the other nodes are clear too, and the removal of most other lymph nodes under the arm may be avoided.
Anna Aertssen, Consultant Breast Surgeon said: " Around 65% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer will have clear lymph nodes. They will not need further surgery, reducing the impact of the side affects that are common following the removal of lymph nodes. Around 35% of patients will have cancer cells present in the sentinel node and will have to have all lymph nodes removed."
The procedure is not suitable for all patients and in these circumstances the surgeon will explain to the patient why this is the case.
Ms Aertssen added: "The important point is that where possible we don't remove nodes that are unaffected. Audits have shown this technique to be an accurate procedure." Ends
For further information please contact: Patrick Butler, Public Relations Manager, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust . Tel: 01722 425170