A sentinel node biopsy is a procedure that identifies the first lymph nodes (sentinel nodes) into which a tumor drains.

The procedure helps doctors to remove only those nodes likely to contain cancerous cells. It’s in the sentinel nodes that cancer has a high possibility of spreading first.

The sentinel node is typically found under the arm within the axillary nodes. In rare cases, you’ll find the sentinel node in the breast’s lymphatic system.

If a sentinel node is positive, then there could be several positive nodes upstream. But if it’s negative, then the rest of the upstream nodes are likely to be negative too.

How the Sentinel Node Biopsy is Performed

  • Several hours prior to surgery, the doctor injects the part surrounding the tumor with a dye or radiographic substance. The lymphatic fluid near the lymph nodes carries the dye or radiographic substance
  • Before making an incision on the breast, a surgeon uses a hand-held gamma detection probe to identify the largest part of radiographic uptake. The probe guides the surgeon to the lymphatic chain, making it easy to remove the sentinel node or nodes detected by the hand-held probe or containing the dye stain
  • The surgeon then removes the sentinel node(s) and sends them to a pathologist
  • If there are cancer cells, the surgeon may perform a standard dissection of the axillary lymph node, which increases recovery time
  • If the pathologist fails to evaluate the nodes, extra surgery may be necessary afterward, especially for positive nodes

The correct identification of sentinel node(s) makes it easy to accurately select the nodes that should be removed during surgery for evaluation of cancer spread.

Patients who don’t qualify for this procedure include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Women with DCIS
  • Women who have already known positive nodes
  • Women with several tumors in the breast
  • Patients with tumors of a certain size

The Benefits of Sentinel Node Biopsy

The procedure helps to determine which lymph nodes should be removed without risking the complications that may come with removing all the potential cancerous nodes.

The surgical procedure involves the removal of a few lymph nodes. This reduces the risk of post-surgery complications, such as lymphedema, or swelling of the hand or arm that may occur after removing many axillary nodes.

Choose Texas Breast Care for your sentinel node biopsy or other types of breast cancer treatment. For more information, call us today at 214.379.2700.