Sentinel Node Biopsy
A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a minimally-invasive surgical technique performed by a surgeon to determine if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The sentinel node(s) can be a solitary node or more often a group of nodes located most commonly under the arm. These nodes are the first draining lymph node(s) of the breast. A small injection of both radioactive substance and a blue dye into the breast help the surgeon identify the sentinel nodes Large studies have demonstrated that removing this node or group of nodes accurately determines if cancer has spread to that nodal basin. In cases where the sentinel node(s) are negative no further nodes need to be removed; patients often have less complaints of soreness, stiffness of the shoulder, and possible lymphedema with this procedure as compared to the traditional full axillary node dissection where many nodes are removed. Although used commonly, the sentinel node biopsy technique may not be indicated in all patients with breast cancer.