“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."
A trial comparing radiotherapy and surgery for women with breast cancer which has spread to their lymph nodes (AMAROS)
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This trial compared surgery with radiotherapy as a treatment for women with breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.
The first lymph node that cancer cells reach is known as the sentinel node. In this trial the doctors removed the sentinel node and checked it for cancer cells. This is called a sentinel node biopsy.
Women who have cancer cells in their sentinel node need further treatment to the lymph nodes. This reduces the risk of breast cancer coming back.
When this trial was done, doctors often used surgery to treat women in this situation. But some women had radiotherapy instead, and the research team wanted to find out if one treatment was better than the other.
In this trial, some women had radiotherapy and some had surgery so the research team could compare the 2 treatments.
The aims of this trial were to
- Find out if radiotherapy is as good as surgery at stopping breast cancer coming back
- Compare the side effects of the 2 treatments
Summary of results
The research team found that there wasn’t much difference between radiotherapy and surgery for breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.
This trial recruited 4,823 women from 9 different countries. They had all been diagnosed with breast cancer and were due to have surgery to remove their sentinel lymph node. They were put into 1 of 2 groups at random in case they needed more treatment after their sentinel node biopsy.
When the research team looked at the biopsy results, they found that 1,425 of these women (30%) had breast cancer that had spread to their lymph nodes. These women needed to have more treatment to the rest of their lymph nodes, and
- 744 women had more surgery
- 681 women had radiotherapy
The research team looked at how many women had cancer in their lymph nodes 5 years after treatment. It was a small number of women in both groups, with
- About 1 out of every 250 women (0.4%) who’d had surgery
- About 3 out of every 250 women (1.2%) who’d had radiotherapy
They found that the side effects were similar in both groups, but more women who had surgery developed a condition called lymphoedema. This is a when fluid builds up in the arm and causes it to swell up. When they looked at how many women had lymphoedema 5 years after treatment, they found it was
- 23% of women who had surgery
- 11% of women who had radiotherapy
The research team concluded that fewer women having radiotherapy had lymphoedema, but that either treatment could be used for women who have breast cancer that has spread to their lymph nodes.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Robert Mansel
European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer