It may be possible to simply keep an eye on some people with melanoma rather than remove all their lymph nodes, Elizabeth Tracey reports


If you’ve been diagnosed with the skin cancer melanoma, treatment may involve taking a look at your lymph nodes near the cancer to assess spread, called a sentinel node biopsy. Used to be that if cancer was found there all the lymph nodes would be removed, but that risks a condition called lymphedema, where swelling of the extremity develops. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says a new study shows that 80% of people who didn’t have the lymph nodes removed did just fine.

Nelson: So what this suggests is that the majority of folks get the sentinel node biopsy even if it's positive, if they have otherwise sort of favorable risk factors you can say we can just watch you and do so safely. This is before the widespread use of some of the more modern age therapies the immunotherapies and other things that give generally much more favorable outcomes anyway so I have a feeling what's going to happen with this it's going to be more and more people just get the sentinel lymph node biopsy and not get a completed lymph node dissection.  :30

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.