Sentinel node biopsy

Sentinel node biopsy is a surgical procedure used to determine if cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into your lymphatic system. Sentinel node biopsy is used most commonly in evaluating breast cancer and melanoma.

The sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains. Sentinel node biopsy involves injecting a tracer material that helps the surgeon locate the sentinel nodes during surgery. The sentinel nodes are removed and analyzed in a laboratory. If the sentinel nodes are free of cancer, then cancer isn't likely to have spread and removing additional lymph nodes is unnecessary.

If, after sentinel node biopsy, evaluation of the sentinel nodes reveals cancer, then you'll likely need additional lymph nodes removed for your doctor to determine how far the cancer has spread.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Sentinel node biopsy is recommended for people with certain types of cancer in order to determine whether the cancer cells have migrated into the lymphatic system.

Sentinel node biopsy is routinely used for people with:

  • Breast cancer
  • Melanoma

Sentinel node biopsy is sometimes used in other types of cancer, such as:

  • Colon cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

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