Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Bigger Problem Than Lack of New Cancer Treatments

I constantly read articles on the advent of new cancer treatments. I think they are wonderful. But they are not always instituted.

In 2014, new guidelines started to recommend sentinel node biopsies instead of full axillary node dissections to detect cancer spread.  They are told not to do axillary node dissections (AND) if the patients cancer is under 5 cm and if breast cancer was only found in one or two sentinel nodes.

"Sentinel node biopsies are done on early-stage breast cancer patients to stage their cancer and determine if it has infiltrated the lymph node system, a common signal of cancer spread."

Axillary node dissections (AND) are much more likely to leave the patient with lymphedema and limited arm movement. In 2009, my surgeon did a sentinel node biopsy first to find any malignant cells (which they found) before he went on with the AND (and now I have lymphedema).

In 2005, the guidelines then stated that sentinel node biopsies should be done first and if any cancer is found, then an AND should be done.

But still in 2017, ANDs are done regularly for women with breast cancer.

"In smaller hospitals, particularly in rural areas, many women are still being told they need a full axillary dissection. There are economic issues, geographic issues and education issues for both clinicians and patients..."

So after over 12 years of established practice, the new guidelines are not being followed by breast surgeons.

I think this is a bigger problem than lack of new research to cure cancer. Any new care standards should be more widely followed by doctors and medical centers. Why do we need new research if no one is following it?

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