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Sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma

What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a less invasive procedure than a traditional lymph node dissection, and is associated with fewer side effects such as lymphedema (fluid build-up and swelling of the affected arm or leg). For this reason, it is now the preferred method of determining whether or not melanoma skin cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in patients without other signs of lymph node involvement.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma

For patients with melanoma, a special type of lymph node biopsy, known as a sentinel lymph node biopsy, is frequently performed. In this procedure, your doctor will remove one or a couple of specific lymph nodes, known as the sentinel lymph node(s), which directly receive the lymph fluid draining from the tumor. If the sentinel lymph node shows no sign of cancer, then no additional lymph node surgery is necessary.

However, if melanoma cells are found within one or more sentinel lymph nodes, then the remaining lymph nodes in the region are usually removed. A sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma is a less invasive procedure than a traditional lymph node dissection, and is typically associated with fewer side effects, such as lymphedema (fluid build-up and swelling of the affected area).

Surgery may also be performed if the cancer cells have spread to distant parts of the body. Our surgical oncologists regularly perform surgery to help control metastatic melanoma, in selected cases, and to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.

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