loading... close

Treatment

 
Treatment

Chapter: 6 - Treatment

Subchapter: 6 - Lymph Node Removal

In addition to your surgical procedure, your doctor may wish to remove and examine lymph nodes; this is to determine whether the cancer has spread and to what extent. Your doctor will perform a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy and/or an Axillary Node Dissection. Let’s discuss both methods.

Sentinel Lymph Nodes and Sentinel Node Biopsy
While it is not easily controlled, the spread of cancer is sometimes predictable. The cancer cells spread through a customary path, out from the tumor and into the surrounding lymph nodes, before they progress throughout the body.

To be able to identify the sentinel lymph node, the surgeon will inject dye or a radioactive tracer into the tissue near the tumor; the lymph nodes that are the most susceptible to the cancer’s spread will be marked by the dye or a radioactive tracer. During surgery, the lymph nodes will be removed and checked for the presence of cancer cells.

Axillary Node Dissection
To determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, examinations can be performed with ultrasound and more carefully by removing one or more of the first draining lymph nodes with sentinel lymph node biopsy. Patients with a tumor that has spread to these lymph nodes may require complete removal of the lymph nodes in the armpit, a procedure known as an axillary lymph node dissection. An axillary dissection is generally performed subsequent to a sentinel lymph node biopsy, unless a woman has had a positive fine needle aspirate of a lymph node.

A mastectomy or lumpectomy operation often includes a sentinel node biopsy and/or an axillary node dissection; both procedures involve a separate incision for lumpectomy patients. Following surgery, the pathologist will test the lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Lymphedema
Removing lymph nodes raises your risk for developing Lymphedema, a condition that may cause abnormal swelling of the arm, breast, axilla, or chest wall on the side of your cancer. Swelling up to one month after surgery is not unusual and does not indicate the presence of lymphedema. However, if you experience new or persistent swelling in these areas after one month has elapsed since your surgery, you should notify your doctor.

Related Questions

  • Unlucky Youth Profile

    Does a biopsy hurt?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years 6 answers
    • View all 6 answers
    • Evelyn Heilbrunn Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      Hey, you!

      The first thing that comes to mind is, don't jump to conclusions and think of yourself as unlucky. You don't know anything yet. Many, many girls and women have breast lumps or abnormalities that aren't cancer. It's pretty rare to have breast cancer in your "youth."

      Does a biopsy...

      more

      Hey, you!

      The first thing that comes to mind is, don't jump to conclusions and think of yourself as unlucky. You don't know anything yet. Many, many girls and women have breast lumps or abnormalities that aren't cancer. It's pretty rare to have breast cancer in your "youth."

      Does a biopsy hurt? Not really. You don't say whether it's a needle biopsy or a surgical biopsy. Either way, they'll give you "Novocaine" -- same thing as the dentist -- to make it numb around the area of the biopsy. That's the only pain you'll feel. The needle is really small. After the first stick of the needle everything gets numb so you don't really feel any additional sticks.

      You might feel some pressure, pulling, or tugging, but the biopsy itself won't hurt. If you happen to feel ANY pain at all, tell them right away and they'll give you more numbing medicine.

      Please let us know how everything goes.

      4 comments
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      I agree with Sharon's advise I hope you have talked to your parents and have an appointment with your doctor. We are all worried and concerned about you. I'm also worried about your use of your profile name "unlucky youth". You need to talk to someone that you trust that can...

      more

      I agree with Sharon's advise I hope you have talked to your parents and have an appointment with your doctor. We are all worried and concerned about you. I'm also worried about your use of your profile name "unlucky youth". You need to talk to someone that you trust that can get you the proper help you need . Not sure if school has started for you yet as it has here in hawaii. If it has please go and talk to your school nurse or counselor or a favorite teacher, or even a friends mom if you are having a hard time talking to your own mom You have a lot of concerns and worries. You have been through a lot of illnesses we all understand your fears and concerns and are praying that you get the care that you need. as a mother of a 13 year old daughter My heart aches when she is sick and worried i feel her pain as if it is my own. I pray all goes well with you. Take care.

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    Having lymphvascular invasion is it something i should scare of ???

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 6 years 1 answer
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I found a very nice discussion on another website about this topic. Several women who had this diagnosis, were talking among themselves. They didn't make this sound earth-shattering. It seemed the women were under 40 and were node negative (no cancer found in lymph nodes) but there was cancer...

      more

      I found a very nice discussion on another website about this topic. Several women who had this diagnosis, were talking among themselves. They didn't make this sound earth-shattering. It seemed the women were under 40 and were node negative (no cancer found in lymph nodes) but there was cancer found in blood vessels to the nodes. Here is the link. I think you will find it very informative and not scary. Hang in there, gal!
      Sharon

      http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/96/topic/753851

      Comment
  • Susan Egan Profile
  • Thumb avatar default

    The surgeon said he removed 25 lymph nodes and 10 were cancerous. Does this mean it has probably spread elsewhere? Are these numbers normal?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 6 years 2 answers
    • Diana Foster Payne Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      As Sharon said...every woman is different. I had 15 lymph nodes removed and 13 of those were cancerous. It doesn't necessarily mean that your cancer has traveled past the lymph nodes. Your dr. May want to do more testing to make sure. I had chemo before my surgery. Then had to have more...

      more

      As Sharon said...every woman is different. I had 15 lymph nodes removed and 13 of those were cancerous. It doesn't necessarily mean that your cancer has traveled past the lymph nodes. Your dr. May want to do more testing to make sure. I had chemo before my surgery. Then had to have more afterwards. When they found the positive nodes...some of them were "extranodal" meaning the cancer had broken outside some of the lymph nodes. That was the reason I needed more chemo. I'm going through radiation now. I'm also happy to say that my last PET scan showed no cancer!! Voice your concerns with our Dr. Yes, let us know how you are. Prayers to you. :)

      Comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      It means it has spread from the original tumor. Your doctor will probably want additional testing of the type of tumor and the aggressiveness of the cells. I had 5 sentinal lymph nodes removed and one was positive for cancer. I hope you keep us posted as your treatment continues. We, on this...

      more

      It means it has spread from the original tumor. Your doctor will probably want additional testing of the type of tumor and the aggressiveness of the cells. I had 5 sentinal lymph nodes removed and one was positive for cancer. I hope you keep us posted as your treatment continues. We, on this board, want to support every woman who is going through this journey. All of our stories are different but we all care for each other.
      Take care, Sharon

      4 comments

Educational Video

Personal Story

Related Topics

Looking for another topic?
Use the search box in the top right.

Footer 3

Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in their lifetime.

spread the word