Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a diagnostic surgical procedure performed to determine whether cancer has spread into the lymphatic system from its original site. The sentinel node is the first node to which cancer spreads after leaving its site of origin. In the case of breast cancer, the sentinel node is located under the arm.

Reasons For A Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

The most common reasons to perform a Sentinel Lymph Node biopsy are to help the surgeon stage the breast cancer and then help plan the subsequent treatment options for her.

Procedure Of A Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

During the surgery, dye is injected to illuminate the area and provide a map of the sentinel lymph node. Once identified, the sentinel node is removed and sent to the pathologist who will look at the node to determine if cancer has spread. This will routinely be performed after the surgery and the results take about one week.

Soreness and bruising sometimes can result from the biopsy, but these symptoms usually subside in a few days.

Complications Of A Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

In addition to the risks of any surgical procedure, such as bleeding, infection and scarring, there are a few risks particular to this procedure itself. These include the following:

  • Allergic reaction to the dye
  • Temporary blue discoloration of the skin where the dye was injected
  • Fluid accumulation or swelling at the side (edema)
  • Numbness at the area of biopsy
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