Lymph Node Biopsy
Why is lymph node evaluation
Most breast cancers today are being
diagnosed at an early stage as a result of improved
screening methods. Studies have shown that in
80 percent of cancers that have been detected
early, axillary dissection (complete removal
of the lymph nodes under the arm) finds that
the lymph nodes are cancer free. Surgeons can
now evaluate the lymph nodes by using a procedure
called sentinel lymph node biopsy to evaluate
the lymph nodes status. Lymph node status is
an important determinant in evaluating whether
the cancer has spread in the body. This new procedure
can give us the information with less risk and
complications than the more extensive removal
of lymph nodes. Sentinel lymph node evaluation
can be done on patients who are having either
lumpectomy or mastectomy.
With sentinel lymph node biopsy,
your surgeon needs to remove only a few lymph
nodes for examination – the “sentinel”
nodes are the first lymph nodes to which cancer
cells would travel if they were to spread.
How is a sentinel lymph
node biopsy performed?
On the day of your surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy), you will be sent to the nuclear
medicine department. The radiologist will inject you with a small amount of radioactive substance around the area of your breast tumor. This usually is done several hours before your surgery. The substance dye flows through your lymph ducts to your lymph nodes. Before your surgery, your surgeon will inject a special blue dye around your tumor. Your surgeon will make a small incision in the armpit. Then to identify the sentinel node, your surgeon will track the path of the blue dye and use a device that detects the radioactivity in the lymph nodes.
What are the risks of a
sentinel lymph node biopsy?
As with any surgery there is
a risk of bleeding, infection, and poor wound
Fluid or blood can accumulate and require drainage.
A small percentage of patients, less than 1 percent,
may have an allergic reaction to the blue dye.
There will be some blue staining in the breast
skin for a few weeks up to several months. You
will also have blue urine for a few days, which
How will I look and feel
after the sentinel lymph node biopsy?
You will have a small scar under
your arm which will be covered with steri-strips.
Initially, there will be some swelling and discomfort
which can be relieved by using ice packs and Tylenol.
This is an outpatient procedure. You will require
someone to drive you home since you will receive
medication during the procedure that will make
you sleepy and unable to drive a car safely.
For more information, please
call us at 847-797-9000.