Recent studies have shown that women with early stage breast cancer may benefit from adjuvant (additional) therapy following primary treatment (mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation therapy). These studies indicate that many breast cancer patients whose underarm lymph nodes show no sign of cancer (known as node negative) may benefit from chemotherapy or hormonal therapy after primary treatment. (These findings do not apply to women with preinvasive or in situ breast cancer.)
Until now, women whose underarm lymph nodes were free of cancer usually received no additional therapy because they have a relatively good chance of surviving the disease after primary treatment. But scientists know that cancer may return in about 30 percent of these women. Adjuvant therapy may prevent or delay the return of cancer.
Based on these findings, the National Cancer Institute has alerted doctors to consider using adjuvant therapy for their node negative breast cancer patients. Although there is strong evidence of the benefits of adjuvant therapy, there also are certain risks and expenses. Therefore, each woman should discuss her treatment options with her doctor.