Lymph node surgery
Lymph node surgery involves taking away lymph glands called lymph nodes in the armpit. Lymph node surgery will be carried out for two reasons; lymph node removal or sentinel lymph node biopsy.
- Lymph node removal: If a fine needle aspirate or core biopsy shows that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes it is usually advised to an axillary clearance whereby most of the lymph nodes are removed.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy: If pre-operative investigations of the lymph nodes did not show evidence of cancer spread to lymph nodes, usually a sentinel lymph node biopsy is still required. This entails identifying and removing the sentinel lymph node which is the first draining lymph node to the breast. This is done by injecting a radioactive liquid into the breast close to the cancer prior to the operation. During the operation a blue dye will also be injected. If sentinel lymph node does not contain cancer cells no more lymph nodes need to be removed. However if they do, axillary clearance or radiotherapy to the remaining lymph nodes is advised.