Immune system weakened by loss of nodes?

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Question from Salad Eater: What happens if I lose lymph nodes to surgery or my white count drops dramatically because of chemotherapy? Is my immune system weakened, and will I become vulnerable again to cancer and infection?
Answers - Marisa Weiss, M.D. There are many hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body. When some are removed from under the arm during breast cancer surgery, usually lymph nodes in the surrounding areas pick up the slack. These days, there is a tendency to take out as few lymph nodes as possible to avoid disruption of lymph fluid drainage, as well as to keep your immune system as undisturbed as possible. Yes, chemotherapy does reduce immune cell count. Standard dose chemotherapy drops the count down only temporarily. Almost always, your body is able to recover completely within a short period of time. Bone marrow transplant patients, a procedure used mostly in the past, did knock down your immune count beyond what your body could normally recover from. That is why, after the chemotherapy was all finished, you needed to transplant new bone marrow cells back into your body. These are the cells that make your blood count. But a low immune cell count does not increase your risk for recurrence of cancer.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Stress and Your Immune System featured Mitch Golant, Ph.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions on how stress affects your treatment, and what you can do to boost your immune system.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2001.

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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