Are lymph nodes with isolated tumor cells still considered node-negative?

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Question from Geri: What is the latest on isolated tumor cells? I had one lymph node out of seven that had seven isolated tumor cells. Two years ago I was considered node negative. Due to the MIRROR study, are ITC now considered node-positive?
Answers - Kristin Brill, M.D., F.A.C.S. Lymph nodes that have small amounts of tumor cells can be challenging for the pathologist to identify, but with a special dye we can pick up very small metastatic deposits in lymph nodes. These small deposits are called isolated tumor cells. By staging these, they have their own notation and at this point we're not certain if there's clinical significance to these small deposits, meaning it's hard to know if these truly represent positive lymph nodes. So at this point they're still considered to be negative lymph nodes.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Updates From the 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium featured Kathy Miller, M.D. and Kristin Brill, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about the latest updates on breast cancer risk, screening techniques, treatment options, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in December 2009.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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