In addition to the health effects, up to 40 percent of women who have their lymph nodes removed get lymphedema – a swelling of the soft tissues in the area serviced by the lymph nodes that were removed.
For many women, the chances of lymphedema are much higher, depending on the surgical procedure.
Lymphedema can occur in the arm, hand, breast, trunk, or abdomen. It causes pain, tightness, numbness, and sometimes infection. And it can happen anytime – you might think you’re not going to have it if it doesn’t happen within days or weeks of the surgery.
But, in fact, it can happen months or years later. It can flare up temporarily, or you can have it all the time, forever. And you never know if it’s going to be mild, moderate or severe.
The Study that Made This Surgery Unnecessary for Many Women
The study, co-authored Dr. Monica Morrow, chief of the breast service at Sloan-Kettering, and funded by the National Cancer Institute, involved 891 patients in 115 medical centers.
The average age of the patients was mid-50s, and they were followed up on for an average of 6.3 years. Some had the surgery, and some didn’t. Check Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care, an article in the New York Times, for more details. Or check the actual study on the Journal of American Medical Association website.
The results – in a nutshell – having the surgery made no difference to these women whatsoever. There was no difference in how long they lived or whether or not the cancer spread.
In fact, the only difference was that the women who had the surgery had the quality of their life and their health seriously compromised. A useless cancer treatment that harmed many.