Node Positive Breast Cancer

The Basics of Node Positive Breast Cancer

Node positive breast cancer (sometimes known as N+ breast cancer) refers to a breast cancer diagnosis where cancer is found in the lymph nodes. The diagnosis of node positive breast cancer means that the cancer cells have left the primary tumor in the breast and entered the lymph nodes. This is important because it can be an indicator of how far the cancer has advanced and how well the patient will have a chance of recovery.

In order to determine if a breast cancer diagnosis is node positive, the doctor will remove and examine your lymph nodes during surgery. If one or more are cancerous, it means that the cancer was able to travel from the primary tumor. The more lymph nodes that are cancerous, the more likely it is that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment for Node Positive Breast Cancer

The treatment for node positive breast cancer typically involves a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, and/or targeted biologic therapies, depending on the individual circumstances. Surgery is typically done before these treatments to determine the extent of the disease and the accuracy of the diagnosis.

One of the most important factors for successful treatment is the size of the tumor. If the tumor is small, it is usually easier to remove completely with surgery alone. Larger tumors may need to be treated with chemotherapy prior to surgery, or even after surgery if the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.

Surgery is often the first step in the treatment process. It is done to help remove as much of the cancer as possible and reduce the risk of the cancer returning. Surgery options can include lumpectomy, mastectomy, or sentinel lymph node biopsy. The goal of the surgery is to remove the cancer while preserving as much of the surrounding breast tissue as possible.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have spread beyond the primary tumor. Chemotherapy can be given intravenously (through a vein), or in pill form. Radiation therapy is also often recommended, either after surgery or in conjunction with chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Hormone therapy (also known as endocrine therapy) is typically used for hormone receptor-positive cancers, as it can help to reduce the risk of recurrence. It works by reducing the amount of estrogen in the body, which can help to slow or stop cancer cell growth. Targeted biologic therapies, such as Herceptin, can also be used to target specific types of cancers that are resistant to other treatments.

Prognosis for Node Positive Breast Cancer

The prognosis for node positive breast cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, the grade of the tumor, and other factors. Typically, the prognosis is more favorable for patients who have smaller tumors that have not spread beyond the surrounding lymph nodes.

Node positive breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, so it's important to detect and treat it as soon as possible. It is also important to get regular check-ups including mammograms and physical exams, as early detection and timely treatment can greatly improve the outcome of this type of breast cancer.

Prevention of Node Positive Breast Cancer

There is no surefire way to prevent node positive breast cancer, but there are some lifestyle and health changes you can make to lower your risk. Some of these include:

  • Consuming a healthy diet that is low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods
  • Getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding cigarettes and alcohol
  • Getting regular medical check-ups
  • Doing regular breast self-exams