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Lymph Node Study Shakes Pillar of Breast Cancer Care

A new study has shown that many women with early breast cancer do not actually benefit from the removal of armpit lymph nodes, a painful procedure that has been routine practice for 100 years.

For about 20 percent of patients, removing the nodes has no advantage -- it neither improves survival nor makes the cancer less likely to recur. What's more, the procedure can complications such as infection and lymphedema.

According to the New York Times:

"Experts say that the new findings, combined with similar ones from earlier studies, should change medical practice for many patients. Some centers have already acted on the new information ... But more widespread change may take time, experts say, because the belief in removing nodes is so deeply ingrained."

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