New Study: Why Breast Cancer Can Spread After Surgery

Premier Health Now

A new study establishing a link between inflammation and tumor cells raises questions about cancer cells that may survive after breast cancer surgery. As reported by ABC News, the study conducted with mice puts forth the idea that the immune system is so busy healing inflammation at the surgical wound site that it may allow stray cancer cells to migrate to other parts of the body still intact.

Published by Science Translational Research, the study also pointed out that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may be part of the answer to preventing the spread of cancer cells post-surgery.

Premier Health Now asked surgeon Michelle DeGroat, MD, oncologist at Premier Health and certified physician with MD Anderson Cancer Network®, how concerned women should be about these new findings.

“We’ll have patients who have seen things like this in the media and come in very concerned,” Dr. DeGroat says. “I want everyone to know that this study shouldn’t be anxiety-provoking at all. Breast cancer surgery is still very safe and a necessary step for treating breast cancer.”

She points out that the study was conducted with mice rather than humans, so not everything correlates. It confirms a link doctors already knew existed between inflammation and tumor cells. She advocates giving NSAIDs post-surgery, which isn’t a new practice.

“NSAIDs like ibuprofen and Advil are very commonly prescribed for postoperative pain, and they can reduce the amount of inflammation,” she notes.

Because NSAIDs can have side effects, such as stomach upset or bleeding, for certain patients, she counsels short-term use — and only what your doctor prescribes.

Finally, Dr. DeGroat says, “A lot of patients who have breast cancer will not have any type of recurrence. A lot of other factors come into play when you’re talking about whether or not a patient will have spread of cancer. This is a very early study that needs more investigation.”