One of the research projects funded by the Vissing Foundation investigates how breast cancer patients can avoid unnecessary lymph node removal.
Today, women suffering from breast cancer with lymph node metastases are often treated with chemotherapy before surgery. Nearly half of the patients experience normalization of the lymph nodes due to the chemotherapy. In order to ensure, the cancerous lymph node is excised in a surgical procedure along with the surgical procedure in the breast. The lymph node is then examined under a microscope. This method for lymph node diagnostics is known as “Targeted Axillary Dissection.”
To apply the Targeted Axillary Dissection approach, the cancerous lymph node must be marked before chemotherapy commences. The surgeon may then find and remove it after the chemotherapy treatment is concluded. In Denmark, various marking methods are being used today.
“The different methods have their advantages and disadvantages. We know the marked lymph node cannot always be found and hypothesize that this is related to the marking method. So far the precise identification rate of the marked lymph node is unknown. With this in mind, we will evaluate and compare the identification rate according to marking method. Our aim is to offer Danish breast cancer patients the most reliable marking method,” explains one of the researchers and MD, Frederikke Munck from Herlev-Gentofte Hospital.
If the marked lymph node is not found, it is necessary to perform axillary dissection, in which all lymph nodes are removed from the axilla. This ensures local control with the breast cancer, but axillary dissection is strongly associated with lasting disability hampering quality of life of the patients.