It's being called a pivotal moment in breast cancer surgery research.
A new study suggests, in certain cases, removing all the lymph nodes from a patient's breast area may no longer be necessary and could eliminate some of the painful side effects of the invasive procedure.
In today's Health Minute, Ninette Sosa looks at the new findings and what it could mean for thousand of patients.
There could be a dramatic shift in the way many breast cancer patients will be treated the next few years.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests a "less is more approach" is the way to go when removing cancerous lymph nodes.
"What the study showed is that for women having lumpectomy and radiation to their entire breast, you could only take out one or two nodes, the sentinel nodes, leave the rest behind and end up with the same survival, a really low risk of cancer recurring in the armpit and far fewer side effects."
The study found survival rates after five years were nearly the same in patients who had 17 lymph nodes removed, compared to those who had just 2 lymph nodes removed.
By not removing most of the lymph nodes, women are spared often debilitating side effects from the procedure.
The study authors say this only applies to early-stage breast cancer patients having lumpectomies and radiation, not mastectomies, and to patients who did not receive chemotherapy prior to surgery.
The authors also stress they are not leaving cancer cells behind.
"We are killing them with radiation, killing them with drugs. and patients have been remarkably receptive to this because they fear the side effects of lymph node surgery."
This less invasive approach is expected to change how women are treated in the near future.
For today's Health Minute, I'm Ninette Sosa.