Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Performed at Mercy

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy - Surgical Oncology at Mercy - Baltimore

Cancer surgeons of Surgical Oncology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, typically perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy, in addition to cancer surgery, to determine whether or not tumor cells have spread beyond the original tumor location to the lymph nodes.  Our doctors work with Mercy’s Nuclear Medicine specialists to help determine if any additional treatment options are needed beyond the initial surgery.

What is a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy?

The sentinel lymph nodes are the first draining lymph nodes from the primary tumor location. They are usually located in the neck, underarms, chest, abdomen, and groin.

A sentinel lymph node biopsy allows doctors to identify, remove and examine the lymph nodes for the presence of cancer cells.

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How is a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy performed?

Our nuclear medicine specialists attempt to find potentially cancerous lymph nodes by injecting a radioactive dye (with or without additional blue dye) near the original tumor location. The dye travels through the lymphatic channels and concentrates in the first draining lymph nodes – the sentinel lymph nodes.

These lymph nodes are surgically removed so that they can be examined by the pathologist. This examination may be done at the time of the surgical procedure or later. If there is no tumor in these lymph nodes, no additional lymph nodes need to be removed. However, if tumor cells are detected in these first draining lymph nodes, removal of additional lymph nodes (a complete axillary lymph node dissection) may be required.

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What are the benefits of Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy?

Sentinel lymph node biopsy helps determine how invasive the cancer is, and therefore is also used to determine what treatment options are likely to be the most effective.

A sentinel lymph node biopsy also may allow for the avoidance of a complete lymph node dissection. In the past, if any lymph node had cancer, a complete lymph node dissection was performed. Any surgery on the lymph nodes can lead to complications including lymphedema, but minimizing surgery on lymph nodes decreases the risk of developing these complications.

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