Sentinel Node Biopsy

What is a Sentinel Node Biopsy?

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a surgical procedure used in the treatment of breast and some other cancers. This procedure is based on the concept that the first lymph node (or group of nodes) that the cancer cells are likely to spread to from the primary tumor is the "sentinel" node.

What are the steps involved in performing a Sentinel Node Biopsy?

  1. Mapping the Sentinel Lymph Node: Before or during the surgery, a dye or radioactive substance is injected near the tumor. This substance travels the same path that the cancer cells would take, leading the surgeon to the sentinel lymph nodes.

  2. Biopsy Procedure: The surgeon then makes a small incision and removes the sentinel lymph nodes.

  3. Pathological Examination: These lymph nodes are then sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells.

  4. Determining Further Treatment: The presence or absence of cancer cells in these nodes helps determine the stage of the cancer and can influence how the rest of the treatment is planned. If the sentinel nodes are cancer-free, it's likely that cancer has not spread, and further treatment of the nodal region is not necessary.

This procedure is important because it can help avoid a full lymph node dissection, which can have more side effects, such as lymphedema (swelling due to lymph fluid build-up). It's a less invasive way to check if the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, which is a key factor in determining the treatment approach.