Understanding Sentinel Node Biopsy

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure known as a sentinel node biopsy. The purpose of this biopsy is to determine whether cancer cells have spread into the lymphatic system, a phenomenon most commonly associated with breast cancer as well as melanoma. Read on to learn more about what to expect if you’ve been scheduled for a sentinel node biopsy.

The sentinel lymph node is the one to which cancer cells from a primary mass are most likely to spread. Before performing breast cancer surgery, the surgeon will inject a special type of dye that helps indicate the presence of cancer cells into the lymph node. This node is then removed as a standard part of the mastectomy or lumpectomy procedure and the path of the dye analyzed to determine whether and how far the cancer cells have spread. If cancer is not present in the sentinel node, it means that the cancer has not yet spread. Where cancerous cells are present, more testing may be required to determine the extent to which it has spread and develop a treatment plan.

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is typically done under general anesthesia. After the use of dye to identify the sentinel node, doctors make a small incision in the armpit area to remove the node so that it can be tested for the presence of cancerous cells. This procedure typically requires a hospital stay, especially if you are having your cancer removed or other surgery at the same time as the biopsy. Return to normal activities largely depends on your individual health situation; your doctor will advise about what’s best for you.

This procedure is important since it lets doctors target and remove only those lymph nodes that need to be removed, lessening the likelihood of complications such as pain and swelling. According to research published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, sentinel lymph node biopsy is as effective in preventing the spread of cancer as more extensive lymph node surgery.

The most common complications of this procedure are short term pain, swelling, and redness at the surgical site. You may also experience an allergic reaction to the dye used in the procedure.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, talk with your doctor about whether a sentinel node biopsy may be right for you, as well as about any concerns you may have prior to having this procedure.

At Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, it is our mission to save lives from the disease of breast cancer. We’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure you get the safest, most effective care possible. Our medical team is comprised of dedicated breast cancer specialists, who will work with you to provide the individualized care you deserve. Contact Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center today to schedule appointment.

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