Published: Feb 08, 2011 10:42 PM EST
Updated: Feb 08, 2011 7:43 PM EST

CHICAGO (AP) - New research says many breast cancer patients can skip aggressive lymph node surgery without increasing chances for recurrence or death, if their disease shows limited spread.

 The results have led to practice changes, and guidelines for surgery are being reconsidered.

The study involved women with cancer spread to only one or two nearby lymph nodes. They fared equally well after five years whether they had lots of nodes removed or skipped that major surgery.

Major node removal can cause arm swelling, stiffness and pain. The results suggest tens of thousands of women can now avoid those complications.

The results appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)