Overview of lymph node micrometastases

micrometastases A small number of cancer cells that shed from a cancerous tumor and spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymph nodes. The micrometastases can then form a second tumor that is too small to be seen on imaging tests, such as a mammogram or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and can only be seen under a microscope.

If you’ve had a sentinel lymph node biopsy, your breast surgeon or oncologist may mention micrometastases. they are almost any The type of cancer, is the reason behind adjuvant Treatment – Treatment given after surgery to help prevent cancer from coming back.

This article will review breast cancer micrometastases and how to diagnose and treat them.

In curable cancers, the primary cancer (for example, in the breast) is surgically removed. This is done to treat cancer and prevent it from spreading. When cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body, it is considered incurable.

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Micrometastases are defined as clusters of cancer cells between 0.2 millimeters and 2 millimeters (mm) in diameter. Any smaller clusters are called solitary tumor cells.

When cancer first spreads and forms micrometastases, the only way to detect them is to remove the tissue in which they are located and look at the sections under a microscope. This is called a lymph node biopsy.

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However, it is not possible to remove and examine every lymph node and organ in the body to check for small cancer cells. Oncologists hypothesize that there may be tiny, undetectable metastases outside the breast and lymph nodes when:

  • Tumors are of a specific size.
  • There is evidence that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

If there is no evidence of lymph node involvement on examination or ultrasonography, a sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed. During this procedure, blue dye is injected into the breast and allowed to travel to reach nearby lymph nodes. When cancer spreads from a tumor, it usually spreads to the lymph nodes in a predictable pattern. The dye could help healthcare providers see this pattern and determine where to look for micrometastases.

Many women are exempt from having a complete axillary lymph node dissection (removal of many or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit) by biopsying one or more sentinel lymph nodes (the first few lymph nodes to which cancer can spread). Complications may arise due to removing all nodes, such as lymphedemasentinel lymph node biopsy is considered a safer option.

Research is ongoing to determine the importance of micrometastases in sentinel lymph nodes. Currently, large metastases (metastases larger than 2 mm) are known to worsen disease prognosis, as do micrometastases in sentinel lymph nodes.

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Meanwhile, people whose tumor cells were isolated in sentinel lymph nodes had no worse prognosis than those who had no evidence of sentinel lymph node metastasis.

Having this information can help healthcare providers understand which patients need a complete axillary lymph node dissection and which patients should be considered for adjuvant therapy for their breast cancer.


Adjuvant chemotherapy or adjuvant radiation therapy is used after the primary tumor has been removed to “clean up” any micrometastases near the origin of the tumor (by radiation) or where they may have spread to any part of the body (by chemotherapy).

For hormone receptor-positive disease, hormone therapy such as tamoxifen or letrozole may be as important as chemotherapy for treating metastases.

Which treatment you need depends on where the metastasis is believed to be. Your healthcare provider may also recommend chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Breast cancer that has started to spread to the lymph nodes is more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, active treatment is important.

where breast cancer has spread


Micrometastases are tiny cancer cells that escape from the original tumor. These cells may be too small to be seen in imaging tests.

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Some characteristics of breast cancer, such as the size of the lymph nodes and the presence of cancer, make micrometastases more likely. A procedure called a sentinel lymph node biopsy can help healthcare providers know where to look for micrometastases. They can be treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for breast cancer to metastasize?

    This is a question with no clear answer. Researchers are still discovering how metastatic disease occurs in breast cancer. Cancer cells may stay in the body for years before they start growing.

  • What is the difference between microtransfer and macrotransfer?

    The difference is the size of the cells. The size of micrometastases was 0.2-2 mm, and the size of large metastases was greater than 2 mm.

  • Are micrometastatic lymph nodes positive?

    It is positive if there are micrometastases in the lymph nodes. However, if only micrometastases are present, total lymphadenectomy may not be necessary.

  • What is the survival rate when breast cancer spreads to the lymph nodes?

    Survival is described as the percentage of people who survive five years after a cancer diagnosis. For breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is 86 percent.