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Healing process after breast cancer surgery may trigger cancer to spread, study says

By: Karen Weintraub, Special to USA TODAY
April 12, 2018 Updated: April 13, 2018 at 6:09 am
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In this file photo, a radiologist compares mammogram images. (Photo: Torin Halsey, AP)

Doctors have long wondered why breast cancer patients are more likely to see their cancer spread within the first 18 months after a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

A new study suggests the wound healing that follows surgery may trigger this spread.

As the immune system works to heal the surgical scar, it stops restraining cancer cells that have wandered far from the tumor site, according to the study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. Without this brake, those cancer cells are free to grow and become new, more dangerous tumors.

“It's not the actual surgery, but instead, it's the post-surgical wound response,” said Robert Weinberg, the paper’s senior author and a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It is provoking already disseminated cells to begin to grow into clinically detectable metastases.”

Read the full story at USA Today.

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