Breast cancer treatment in Tulsa

Wednesday, June 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There is some cutting-edge medicine right here in Tulsa. News on Six medical reporter Tami Marler explains in a breast cancer checkup.

“It’s been a big year for you hasn't it.” “Yes it has.” Lisa Ziegler knew something wasn't right as she fed her baby around Christmas last year. “I was nursing her, I found a lump and thought that it was just an occluded milk duct. So I kept nursing her and massaging it while I was nursing and it still didn't go away.”

She had breast cancer in her right breast with a strong possibility it could spread to her left. But had it spread to her lymph nodes? “On the left breast, since I hadn't had any surgery there, they were able to find that lymph node which was right under my arm."

"And we did a sentinel lymph node biopsy to try to see if we could find the lymph node that drains the breast.” The sentinel node is the first lymph node that drains the toxins once cancer develops. To find it. Dr. Lanette Smith injected a dye and a radioactive tracer. And the sentinel node stood out. “If you can check that lymph node and find out that it doesn't have any tumors in it, then you wouldn't have to go and remove the rest of the lymph nodes underneath the arm.

“This arm just feels just normal; just as wonderful as can be." Lisa was only able to have the sentinel node biopsy on her left breast. Two nodes were removed. And scarring was minimal. She had a full biopsy on the right side. Several nodes were removed. And she'll never fully recover. Both lymph biopsies were negative. “There is numbness in the elbow, all the way up my arm, and then my armpit just feels like it's hollowed out and it's very numb.” Lisa says even that's a small price to pay for her life.

Dr. Smith says the sentinel node biopsy has about a 5% false positive rate, compared with 2 - 3% for the biopsy where all of the underarm nodes are removed.