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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (cont.)

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
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What are the benefits of a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

The sentinel node biopsy allows the examination of one lymph node to first determine if a tumor has spread to the lymph nodes at all. If the sentinel node is negative for tumor cells, it is not necessary to surgically remove additional lymph nodes. The procedure helps certain patients avoid more extensive surgical procedures involving the removal of multiple lymph nodes, such as axillary lymph node dissection in patients with breast cancer. It means that the patient will not have to experience the side effects of a more extensive lymph node removal procedure, such as lymphedema (swelling) of the arm in patients who have had axillary node dissection. It can be performed in patients undergoing a mastectomy or lumpectomy for breast cancer.

What are the side effects and complications of a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

The most common side effects are short-term bruising, pain, or swelling at the biopsy site. As with any surgery, bleeding and infection are possible complications. Another possible risk is a false-negative result, which means that tumor cells are present but not detected by the procedure. Studies with breast cancer patients have shown false-negative rates of around 10%.

Is the use of the sentinel lymph node biopsy common?

Yes. Sentinel lymph node biopsy has, for example, become a standard technique for determining the nodal stage of the disease in some patients with malignant melanoma and with breast cancer. The use of sentinel node biopsy is still being investigated with other types of cancer such as colon cancer, stomach cancers, and others.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/13/2018


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