When lymph node surgery is performed it is known as a lymphadenectomy. It is done when there is known lymph node involvement after a diagnosis of cancer. It is also done to do a lymph node biopsy.

To accurately stage cancer (determine how far it has spread) it is necessary to find out if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and unfortunately, removing the lymph node is the only way to do a biopsy and test the node for cancer.

The side effects of the surgery are manageable.

Testing For Cancer Cells

There are over 600 lymph nodes in the body, but only the ones closest to the tumor will need to be removed. In 2012, dye tests are done to map the flow of the fluid and determine which lymph node is the sentinel node, the one that most likely has cancer will travel to it first. This practice has reduced the number of lymph nodes that need to be removed for a biopsy to test for cancer cells.

The surgery varies depending on the location of the cancer. Whenever possible, when a tumor is removed it will be tested immediately for cancer and if it is positive, the lymph nodes may be removed during the same procedure. When cancer is found in some lymph nodes after a lymphadenectomy, a second surgery may be necessary to determine if there are any other lymph nodes affected by the cancer. Generally the surgery to remove a lymph node lasts about 45 minutes. As with all surgeries, there are risks.

Get More Information – Lymph Node Cancer

Surgery And Health Risks After Removal

There are risks associated with the removing lymph nodes. Some of them are from the surgery itself and some of them are from the absence of the nodes. Common surgery risks include adverse reaction to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, swelling, and pain. Having the surgery done by an experienced doctor can reduce the risks. It will also be important that your doctor knows your complete medical history. To prevent a serious infection like MRSA, proper wound care will be necessary.

Once the lymph nodes are surgically removed, the body will have missing links in the path that the lymph travels. Some of the health problems it can cause include the following

  • Increase risk of infection
  • Lymph build up (seroma) in area where node was
  • Fluid build up in limb (lymphoedema)

Having good personal hygiene, eating healthy, getting enough rest, and building a strong immune system are ways to prevent infection. Some ways to avoid the build up of lymph include exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, gradually returning to normal activity, and avoiding sudden temperature changes.


Managing the risks of a lymph node surgery are worth it to properly treat cancer and increase the lifespan after a cancer diagnosis.