A person has thousands of lymph nodes throughout their body. Of these lymph nodes, the sentinel nodes are one of the first lymph nodes to show cancer cells when cancer spreads from a primary tumor. A sentinel node biopsy can reduce the number of lymph nodes removed and the need for extensive surgical procedures. Commonly there is one sentinel node, but there may be more than one.

Identifying This Node

The sentinel lymph node is identified by dye or radioactive substance near the tumor. Sometimes both are used to track the lymph fluid drainage from around the tumor. When the dye or radioactive substance is found in a node, it is removed and a biopsy is performed. This is commonly done at the time the tumor is removed.

Biopsy

A patient who is has a cancerous tumor will be tested to see if the cancer has spread from a primary tumor. The first place that will be tested will be the lymph nodes and the first lymph nodes to have a biopsy will be the sentinel nodes. To do a lymph node biopsy, the node needs to be removed. The biopsy helps to determine the stage that the cancer is in.

Procedure

Once the node has been removed a biopsy is done to determine cancer involvement. When the sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is negative, it means there is no cancer present in the node. When the result is positive, it means there is cancer in the node and it may have spread to other lymph nodes (regional lymph nodes) and other organs. Further testing will need to be done. Sometimes the node will be tested for cancer during the surgery and other lymph nodes are removed at the time of the sentinel node biopsy.

Side Effects

All surgical procedures have risks. In addition to these risks, the following risks may occur with lymph node biopsies:

  • Build up of lymph fluid due to lymph flow being changed with some nodes removed, which causes swelling, pain, and increase risk of infection in affected limbs (Lymphedema)
  • Build up of lymph at the site of the surgery (Seroma)
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Impaired movement

These risks occur due to the removal of lymph nodes but are worth it to properly diagnose and treat cancer. A healthcare professional will help you make an informed decision.

Benefits From A Biopsy

The biopsy is done as an outpatient procedure with a quick recovery time. When a sentinel node biopsy is negative, it prevents unnecessary aggressive treatment. In the event that there is cancer in the sentinel node, further testing can be done to determine the extent of the spread of cancer. The fewer lymph nodes that are removed the better it is for the patient, because it reduces side affects and complications of lymph node removal.

Get More Information – Lymph Node Cancer

Conclusion

When having a sentinel node biopsy done, the procedure should be done by an experienced surgeon at a facility that is able to accurately test the tissue for cancer promptly.