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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

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What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

The sentinel lymph nodes are the first few lymph nodes ("lymph gland") to receive lymphatic drainage from a tumor, meaning that sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes to which cancer cells would spread. It stands sentinel over the tumor, so to speak. The biopsy is performed to determine if there are tumor cells in the node. If the sentinel lymph node does not contain tumor cells (a negative result), then the cancer has not likely spread to lymph nodes or other organs via the lymphatic system.

What is the lymphatic drainage?

Lymphatic system refers to a collection of vessels that, like the system of blood vessels, circulates fluid through the tissues. The lymphatic drainage refers to the manner in which tissue fluid, or lymph, is drained from the body and returns to a central location -- in this case, a lymph node. The lymphatic fluid has a milky appearance.

Why do a biopsy of the sentinel node?

Examination of the sentinel node ("gland") is performed to learn whether that node does or does not have tumor cells within it. The biopsy is performed to verify if there are tumor cells present. This procedure helps the surgeon accurately stage the tumor. Staging a tumor refers to determining the extent to which it has spread in the body.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/29/2016


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