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Dr. Raetasha Dabney Explains The Types Of Lymph Node Surgeries Performed On Patients With Breast Cancer

Types of Lymph Node Surgery for Breast Cancer

Southlake, TX – April 15, 2020 – When breast cancer spreads, it goes to nearby lymph nodes under the arm, near the collarbone and breast bone. It’s important to know if your cancer has spread to lymph nodes. This will help to determine your treatment and prognosis. If you are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, your lymph nodes will need to be removed through surgery.

“Lymph node surgery is necessary to check for cancer in a procedure called sentinel lymph node biopsy or rid the breast of cancer through axillary lymph node dissection,” explained Dr. Dabney. “These procedures are often performed depending on the size of the lymph nodes, the tumor stage, and the patient’s overall health.”

Lymph node surgery is often performed as part of the primary surgery to remove the cancer but can also be done as a separate operation. Here are the two types of lymph node surgery:

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy – Sentinel lymph node biopsy is carried out to remove lymph nodes with tumors that are likely to spread (sentinel nodes). It is done when a surgeon injects a radioactive substance in the tumor and surrounding area to identify the lymph nodes with the cancer. The surgeon will then remove the lymph nodes to check for cancer cells. If cancer is found, a full axillary dissection will be performed to take out more lymph nodes. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is often done in women with early-stage breast cancer.
  • Axillary lymph node dissection – This is done after a sentinel lymph node biopsy shows that three or more lymph nodes contain cancer cells. In this procedure, about 20 lymph nodes are removed from the axilla (the area under the arm) to check for cancer spread. It can be done during a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery or as a second operation.

“Cancer cells can be detected in the axillary lymph nodes in some types of cancer,” continued Dr. Dabney. “Finding out if the lymph nodes close the breast have cancer can help doctors to determine the best treatment for the patient. However, you should discuss your risks and benefits with your doctor beforehand.”

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