Patient preferences for axillary dissection in the management of early-stage breast cancer

Galper, Sharon R.; Lee, Sadra J.; Galper, S R; Lee, S J; Tao, M L; Troyan, S; Kaelin, C M; Harris, J R; Weeks, J C
October 2000
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute;10/18/2000, Vol. 92 Issue 20, p1681
Academic Journal
journal article
Background: Recent data on the value of adjuvant therapy in lymph node-negative breast cancer and promising early data on less invasive strategies for managing the axilla have raised questions about the appropriate role of axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) in the management of early-stage breast cancer. We sought to evaluate how women weigh potential benefits of ALND-prognostic information, enhanced local control, and tailored therapy-against the risks of long-term morbidity that are associated with the procedure.Methods: We used hypothetical scenarios to survey 82 randomly selected women with invasive breast cancer who had been treated with ALND and 62 women at risk for invasive breast cancer by virtue of a history of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) who had not undergone ALND.Results: Women in both the invasive cancer and the DCIS groups required substantial improvements in local control of the cancer (5% and 15%, respectively) and overall survival (3% and 10%, respectively) before they would opt for this procedure. Women with invasive cancer would choose ALND if it had only a 1% chance of altering treatment recommendations, whereas DCIS subjects required a 25% chance. Sixty-eight percent and 29% of women in the invasive cancer and DCIS groups, respectively, would accepted a 40% risk of arm dysfunction to gain prognostic information that would not change treatment.Conclusions: For most subjects treated previously for invasive breast cancer and almost half those at risk of the disease, the potential benefits of ALND, particularly the value of prognostic information, were sufficient to outweigh the risks of morbidity. However, women varied considerably in their preferences, highlighting the need to tailor decisions regarding management of the axilla to individual patients' values.


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