How to treat patients
who have microinvasive breast cancer – tumors that are 1 mm or less in size
(the thickness of a dime) — is somewhat controversial. Can these tiny tumors
affect the lymph nodes and spread cancer to other areas of the body?
Physicians at the
Virginia Piper Cancer Institute wanted to know if surgical procedures to test
the lymph nodes for cancer were always necessary.
They examined the
outcomes of 294 patients who were treated between 2001 and 2015. Only 1.5
percent had positive lymph nodes – indicating the rare possibility of
metastatic cancer. And the only patients with positive lymph nodes had
microinvasive tumors that were associated with relatively large non-invasive
tumors (ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS).
“These findings allow
surgeons to select which patients with microinvasive tumors may actually
benefit from lymph node sampling, while sparing other patients from this
procedure,” said Tamera Lillemoe, M.D, pathologist and a study co-author.
The study, funded by
Engelsma Family Foundation and Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation, was
published recently in The Breast Journal,
the official journal of the National Consortium of Breast
The Virginia Piper Cancer Institute provides comprehensive care through all aspects of cancer prevention, early detection and treatment to help individuals maintain quality of life and find ways to live with and beyond cancer. The Institute was founded in 1990 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Both are part of Allina Health.