Breast Cancer Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Breast Cancer
Depending on the stage of the breast cancer and how far it has spread, your CTCA care team may recommend a sentinel lymph node mapping and biopsy as part of your breast cancer treatment plan. This lymphadenectomy procedure helps your surgeon determine whether the breast cancer has metastasized (spread) to the axillary lymph nodes (lymph nodes under the arm).
Sentinel node mapping and biopsy enables your doctor to find the one or few lymph nodes that need to be removed for examination. Your doctor injects a radioactive substance and/or dye near the tumor site. A special gamma probe finds the first lymph node(s) that picks up the dye, creating a “map” of the nodes which need to be removed.
With the nodes identified, your doctor will perform breast cancer surgery to remove just the sentinel nodes, or the first lymph nodes to which cancerous cells are likely to spread from the primary tumor location (before spreading to other lymph nodes). After performing the sentinel node biopsy, your pathologist carefully reviews the nodes to check for the presence of cancer cells.
Advantages of a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
A sentinel lymph node biopsy:
- Helps us determine the extent of the disease and make an accurate diagnosis. Using this information, your CTCA care team can recommend breast cancer treatments best suited to you, which may help to avoid unnecessary treatments.
- Allows us to spare as many lymph nodes as possible in the underarm. This may help to prevent a condition known as lymphedema, in which excess fluid collects in tissue and causes swelling.
- Helps us determine which lymph nodes need to be removed during breast cancer surgery. This allows us to eliminate the need to remove additional lymph nodes in the underarm area (compared to traditional axillary lymph node dissection) and will help reduce the amount of time you spend in surgery.
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