What To Expect On The Day
You will usually be admitted to the hospital on the morning of your operation or occasionally the day before. You will have pre-surgery checks that include a visit from the anaesthetist and a doctor from the surgical team.
Once the pre-surgery checks have been done, youll be taken to the anaesthetic room. Youll be given a combination of drugs into a vein. This will usually include an anaesthetic, pain relief and anti-sickness drugs.
Youll usually be asked to take deep breaths and as the anaesthetic takes effect you will fall into a deep sleep. Once you are fully anaesthetised you will be taken into the theatre.
For more information about going into hospital, see our booklet Your operation and recovery.
What Is The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a network of tiny vessels and small, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes that carry lymph throughout the body. Lymph is a clear, colorless fluid that contains a few blood cells. It starts in many organs and tissues. The lymphatic system is part of your immune system. It helps protect and maintain the fluid balance of your body by filtering and draining lymph and waste products away from each body region. The lymphatic system also helps the body fight infection.
How Is The Stage Determined
The staging system most often used for breast cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system. The most recent AJCC system, effective January 2018, has both clinical and pathologic staging systems for breast cancer:
- The pathologic stage is determined by examining tissue removed during an operation.
- Sometimes, if surgery is not possible right away or at all, the cancer will be given a clinical stage instead. This is based on the results of a physical exam, biopsy, and imaging tests. The clinical stage is used to help plan treatment. Sometimes, though, the cancer has spread further than the clinical stage estimates, and may not predict the patients outlook as accurately as a pathologic stage.
In both staging systems, 7 key pieces of information are used:
- The extent of the tumor : How large is the cancer? Has it grown into nearby areas?
- The spread to nearby lymph nodes : Has the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes? If so, how many?
- The spread to distant sites : Has the cancer spread to distant organs such as the lungs or liver?
- Estrogen Receptor status: Does the cancer have the protein called an estrogen receptor?
- Progesterone Receptor status: Does the cancer have the protein called a progesterone receptor?
- HER2 status: Does the cancer make too much of a protein called HER2?
- Grade of the cancer : How much do the cancer cells look like normal cells?
In addition, Oncotype Dx® Recurrence Score results may also be considered in the stage in certain situations.
Don’t Miss: Survival Rates Stage 3 Colon Cancer
A Lot To Learn About Alnd In Other Patients
Its important for doctors and patients to understand that these results can only be applied to women whose breast cancer and treatment regimen match those of the participants in the trial, the papers authors cautioned.
The results should not be used to direct the care of women with palpable axillary lymph nodes, women who had breast tumors larger than 5 cm in diameter, women with three or more positive sentinel lymph nodes, women who received chemotherapy or hormone therapy before surgery, and women who underwent mastectomy instead of breast-conserving surgery with radiation, they wrote.
We still have a lot to learn about ALND in other settings, commented Dr. Giuliano.
One trial, currently underway in Europe, is examining whether ALND can be skipped in some women who have a mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer, but results are not expected for years.
But for now, according to Edward Livingston, M.D., and Hsiao Ching Li, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, authors of an accompanying editorial, The ACOSOG Z0011 trial has shattered a century of belief that all cancer containing axillary lymph nodes must be removed in women with breast cancer.
Cancer Highjacks The Immune System
The researchers also explored what happens once cancer gets to the lymph nodes. Similar to what other studies have found, it appears that when cancer cells arrive, they shift the amounts and types of immune cells in the lymph nodes.
In mice, for example, there were fewer cancer-killing immune cells in lymph nodes that were invaded by melanoma than in lymph nodes that were cancer-free, the researchers found.
There were also more immune cells called T-regulatory cells in lymph nodes that were invaded by melanoma cells.
And in tissue samples from people with head and neck cancer, there were more T-regs in lymph nodes where cancer had invaded than in lymph nodes that were cancer-free.
The main role of T-regs is to protect healthy cells from attack by other immune cells that have gone off the rails. By doing so, T-regs help prevent autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation. But T-regs can sometimes get mixed up, protecting unhealthy cells that should be eliminated, like cancer cells.
Thats exactly what the researchers appeared to see in their mouse studies: In mice that were bred to lack T-regs, melanoma tumors were less able to spread to the lungs.
The scientists then removed T-regs from the lymph nodes of mice where melanoma had or hadnt invaded. They transferred the T-regs into other mice with melanoma that hadnt invaded the lymph nodes. Only the T-regs from lymph nodes with cancer helped melanoma cells spread to the lungs, the researchers found.
Also Check: Does Medicare Cover Chemo And Radiation
Oncotype Dx For Premenopausal And Lymph Node Positive Patients
I was diagnosed with ER+ 30% Prg + 100% Her2 – invasive lobular carcinoma stage 2b and I am 31 years old.
After my mastectomy surgery on the left side I was discussing my treatment plan with my doctor. I will have radiation and tamoxifen for 5-10 years.
She said we are waiting now for the oncotype DX test results to see if I need chemotherapy.
When I researched about this test I found out that for premenopausal women and positive lymph nodes, chemotherapy is recommended regardless of the results of the oncotype DX test.
Does it mean I didnt need this test and the result doesnt matter?
I am confused why the test was recommended if it is already clear that I need chemotherapy.
Is there anybody here premenopausal with positive lymph nodes that did not need chemotherapy?
The Tnm Staging System
The breast cancer staging system, called the TNM system, is overseen by the American Joint Committee on Cancer . The AJCC is a group of cancer experts who oversee how cancer is classified and communicated. This is to ensure that all doctors and treatment facilities are describing cancer in a uniform way so that the treatment results of all people can be compared and understood.
In the past, stage number was calculated based on just three clinical characteristics, T, N, and M.
The T category describes the original tumor:
HER2 status: are the cancer cells making too much of the HER2 protein?
Oncotype DX score, if the cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive, HER2-negative, and there is no cancer in the lymph nodes
Adding information about tumor grade, hormone-receptor status, HER2 status, and possibly Oncotype DX test results has made determining the stage of a breast cancer more complex, but also more accurate.
In general, according to experts, the new staging system classifies triple-negative breast cancer at a higher stage and classifies most hormone receptor-positive breast cancer at a lower stage.
You also may see or hear certain words used to describe the stage of the breast cancer:
Distant: The cancer is found in other parts of the body as well.
The updated AJCC breast cancer staging guidelines have made determining the stage of a cancer a more complicated but accurate process. So, the characteristics of each stage below are somewhat generalized.
Recommended Reading: Stage 4 Liver Cancer Life Expectancy
Types Of Lymph Node Surgery
Even if the nearby lymph nodes are not enlarged, they will still need to be checked for cancer. This can be done in two different ways. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is the most common way and only a few lymph nodes are removed. But in some cases, an axillary lymph node dissection , which removes more lymph nodes, might be needed.
Lymph node surgery is often done as part of the main surgery to remove the breast cancer, but sometimes it might be done as a separate operation.
Checking Lymph Nodes Before Surgery
If you have invasive breast cancer, your treatment team will want to check if any of the lymph nodes under the arm contain cancer cells. This helps them decide whether youll benefit from any additional treatment after surgery.
Usually an ultrasound scan of the underarm is done before surgery to assess the lymph nodes.
If this appears abnormal, youll have a fine needle aspiration or a core biopsy to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- FNA uses a fine needle and syringe to take a sample of cells to be looked at under a microscope.
- Core biopsy uses a hollow needle to take a sample of tissue to be looked at under a microscope.
Read Also: Cell Tower Radiation Health Effects
Local And Regional Recurrence
Breast cancer that comes back in the skin of the breast where the cancer was first removed, or in the operation scar, is known as a local recurrence.
Breast cancer may also come back in the lymph nodes in the armpit, behind the breast bone, or in the lower part of the neck. This is called regional recurrence. If cancer cells are blocking the lymph nodes in the armpit, fluid can build up in the arm causing swelling known as lymphoedema.
Local and regional recurrences are not secondary breast cancer, as the cancer has not spread to another organ in the body.
These recurrences are usually less serious than secondary breast cancer. But you will usually have tests to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
A local or regional recurrence that hasnÃ¢t spread anywhere else in the body may be treated with surgery, if possible, or with radiotherapy. Your treatment will depend on the treatments you received to remove and treat the primary breast cancer.
You May Like: Stage 3a Cancer Lymph Nodes
Diagnosing Secondary Cancer In The Lymph Nodes
Secondary cancer in the lymph nodes may be diagnosed at the same time as the primary cancer. It may also be found during routine tests and scans after treatment.
If a lymph node close to the surface of the skin is affected, your doctor may be able to see it or feel it. If an affected lymph node is deep inside the chest, tummy or pelvis, only a scan can find it.
If you have had cancer before, you may only need a scan to make a diagnosis of secondary cancer in the lymph nodes. This may be:
- A CT scan
A CT scan takes a series of x-rays, which build up a 3D picture of the inside of the body.
- An MRI scan
An MRI scan uses magnetism to build up a detailed picture of the inside of your body.
- An ultrasound scan
Don’t Miss: Lsil Turned Out To Be Cancer
Changing Views On Breast Cancer Metastasis
The axillary lymph nodes run from the breast tissue into the armpit. Early theories of breast-cancer metastasis held that cancer cells that had broken free from the main tumor would first travel through these lymph nodes on their way to other organs. That led doctors to believe that removing the axillary lymph nodes could reduce the risk of both cancer recurrence and metastases.
However, more-recent research has suggested that breast cancer may metastasize to other areas of the body through several different routes, explained Dr. Giuliano.
Also, modern treatment for early-stage breast cancer typically includes radiation therapywhich targets some of the same lymph nodesalong with breast-conserving surgery, Dr. Giuliano added.
Most patients additionally receive some sort of systemic treatment, such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and, more recently, targeted therapy, all of which can kill cancer cells throughout the body.
What Should I Take With Me To Hospital
Your hospital team should give you information about your admission and hospital stay as well as what to take with you.
You will usually be given a telephone number at your pre-assessment appointment. You can call if you have any questions about preparing for surgery, or are unclear about any instructions you have been given .
Read Also: Is Cancer Detected In Blood Tests
What Is Stage Iv Breast Cancer
Stage IV is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to distant parts of the body beyond the breast. This means it possibly involves your organs such as the lungs, liver, or brain or your bones.
Breast cancer may be stage IV when it is first diagnosed, or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread.
Measures Of Treatment Effect
We will carry out statistical analysis using Review Manager 5.1 . We will use fixed-effect meta-analysis for combining data in the absence of heterogeneity. For those outcomes where there are moderate or high levels of heterogeneity, where clinically meaningful, we will use random-effects analysis and these results will be presented as average treatment effects.
For dichotomous data, we will present results as summary risk ratio with 95% confidence intervals. For continuous data, we will use the mean difference if outcomes were measured in the same way between trials. We will use the standardized mean difference to combine trials that measured the same outcome, but using different methods. If there is evidence in the trials of abnormally distributed data, we will report this.
Recommended Reading: Ways To Prevent Breast Cancer
What Is A Primary Tumor
The primary tumor refers to the original breast tumor. So, any metastases are either secondary tumors, or simply metastatic breast cancer.
Note, when breast cancer spreads to the bones, it is not bone cancer, it is metastatic breast cancer in the bones.
Metastatic describes a breast cancer that has already spread to distant areas and organs of the body. Metastatic cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Furthermore, the most common sites for breast cancer to metastasize to are the:-
Once breast cancer is at this most advanced metastatic stage, the odds of completely curing the breast cancer are quite low. .
The treatment of metastatic breast cancer, after a reasonable effort, will often focus on the quality of life and relieving symptoms rather than a cure.
When Cancer Goes Beyond Your Breast
If your doctor told you that your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, it’s at a more advanced stage than if it’s only in your breasts. How far it has spread is one of the things your doctor will consider when they tell you the “stage” of your cancer. It’s considered “metastatic” if it has spread far from your breasts. Every case is different. For some women, it becomes something they live with for a long time. For others, focusing on pain management and quality of life is the main goal.
You May Like: Head Scarves For Chemo Patients
Surgery To Remove Lymph Nodes
Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body. If it does spread, it usually first spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpit close to the breast. These lymph nodes drain the lymphatic fluid from the breast and arm.
It is important to know if there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes in the armpit and how many. This helps the doctors work out the stage of your cancer and plan the best treatment for you.
Also Check: Is Breast Cancer Curable In The 3 Stage
Limited Arm And Shoulder Movement
You might also have limited movement in your arm and shoulder after surgery. This is more common after ALND than SLNB. Your doctor may advise exercises to help keep you from having long-lasting problems .
Some women notice a rope-like structure that begins under the arm and can extend down toward the elbow. This is sometimes called axillary web syndrome or lymphatic cording. It is more common after ALND than SLNB. Symptoms may not appear for weeks or even months after surgery. It can cause pain and limit movement of the arm and shoulder. This often goes away without treatment, although some women may find physical therapy helpful.
Read Also: Does Chemo Brain Ever Go Away
Stages Of Breast Cancer
Staging describes or classifies a cancer based on how much cancer there is in the body and where it is when first diagnosed. This is often called the extent of cancer. Information from tests is used to find out the size of the tumour, what part of the breast has cancer, whether the cancer has spread from where it first started and where the cancer has spread. Your healthcare team uses the stage to plan treatment and estimate the outcome .
The most common staging system for breast cancer is the TNM system. For breast cancer there are 5 stages stage 0 followed by stages 1 to 4. Often the stages 1 to 4 are written as the Roman numerals I, II, III and IV. Generally, the higher the stage number, the more the cancer has spread. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about staging.
When describing the stage of breast cancer, sometimes doctors group them as follows:
In situ breast cancer The cancer cells are only in the duct or lobule where they started and have not grown into nearby breast tissue . It is stage 0.
Early stage breast cancer The tumour is smaller than 5 cm and the cancer has not spread to more than 3 lymph nodes. It includes stages 1A, 1B and 2A.
Locally advanced breast cancer The tumour is larger than 5 cm. The cancer may have spread to the skin, the muscles of the chest wall or more than 3 lymph nodes. It includes stages 2B, 3A, 3B and 3C. Inflammatory breast cancer is also considered locally advanced breast cancer.
Find out more about .