New study suggests patients with small tumours may skip lymph node biopsies

Breast cancer patients with small yet invasive tumours known as microinvasive breast carcinomas may not benefit from lymph node biopsies, according to new research.

Researches from Allina Health found that only 1.5 per cent of breast cancer patients with tumours measuring 1mm or less had cancer in their lymph nodes, suggesting that standard procedure lymph node biopsies could be skipped by these patients.

These findings allow for surgeons to determine which patients with microinvasive tumours might benefit from biopsies, and which could skip the procedure.

During the study of 260 patients who underwent axillary staging, less than two per cent were positive for lymph node metastases – pain or swelling in the lymph nodes, a common symptom of cancer that originated in the lymphatic system.

While 98.9 per cent of those patients with microinvasive breast carcinomas studied presented with associated lesions, those with positive lymph nodes had much larger (5cm) lesions than the average tumour size of 2.5cm.

This could reduce the number of patients requiring lymph node biopsies and their side effects, the most common of these known to be lymphedema – a fluid retention in arms, hands and other parts of the body.

While microinvasive breast carcinomas is an extremely rare cancer type accounting for around 1 per cent of all breast cancers, this news is positive for those patients with the condition.