Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes are found throughout the body and filter lymph from nearby tissues or organs. When cancer affects an area or an organ, the degree of severity can be determined by examining the number of nearby lymph nodes that contain cancer cells. A Sentinel lymph node is the node that is closest to the affected body part. Radioactive dye is injected into the area, which is then taken up by the lymph drainage system and collects in the closest node to the cancer site. This node is then surgically removed, and examined for the presence of cancer cells. If there are no cancer cells present, then the cancer has not metastasized (or spread) from the original tumor and more lymph nodes do not need to be removed. This biopsy is a very good method to pinpoint exactly which lymph nodes drain the cancer site, and identification of some nodes could have been missed in the past. A Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy is performed on people with melanoma and breast cancer, and is also used to determine the stage of cancer. When a low number of lymph nodes are involved, this results in a lower stage of cancer, and the better the prognosis for recovery.


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