Breast Cancer Treatments / Surgery
Evaluation of Lymph Nodes
At the time of breast cancer surgery, whether lumpectomy or mastectomy, a number of nearby lymph nodes are usually removed. This helps gauge the extent of disease, predict its potential for spreading and determine the need for other treatment, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
A technique called sentinel lymph node biopsy is being used for many patients to evaluate the lymph nodes and determine the need for further lymph node surgery.
Prior to breast surgery, the patient will have an isotope tracer and/or blue dye injected. By injecting the tiny tracer dose around the tumor site and scanning the area with a sensitive probe, the "hottest" or sentinel node or nodes can be pinpointed for removal.
For some women, this procedure will keep the number of nodes needing removal smaller, and may decrease the potential for complications associated with lymph node removal, such as lymphedema.
If lymph nodes are positive with disease, the surgeon will determine if further surgery is necessary. This might mean having another procedure, axillary node dissection, where additional nodes are taken for further evaluation.
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