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Sentinel node biopsy

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SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY DEFINITION

Sentinel node biopsy, also known as sentinel lymph node biopsy or sentinel lymph node dissection, is a surgical procedure that doctors use to help stage cancer. It is performed in patients who have been previously found with either breast cancer or a type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma.

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY PURPOSE

A sentinel node biopsy is performed in patients who have been previously diagnosed with cancer. This procedure will help determine the stage of the disease as this lymph node acts as the first filter of harmful materials such as cancerous cells. It basically helps the doctor determine if the cancer has spread from the primary tumor into the lymphatic system.

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY RISKS

Generally, sentinel node biopsy is a safe procedure. However, some things may go wrong along the way. Although rare, risks of bleeding, infection, allergic reaction, and lymphedema may occur.
SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY
Image: SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY PREPARATION REQUIRED

Before a sentinel node biopsy, the doctor may ask the patient to avoid eating or drinking. That is because this procedure requires the use of anesthesia. Any other specific instructions must be discussed, depending on the patient’s condition.

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY PROCEDURE

In a sentinel node biopsy, the first step is locating the sentinel lymph node. In this case, either a radioactive solution or a blue dye or both may be used. After that, a patient is given general anesthesia. A small incision will be made on the location of the sentinel nodes. In many cases, there are two or three sentinel nodes and all are removed during the procedure.

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY COMPLICATIONS

Lymphedema is unlikely but it is a possible complication of a sentinel node biopsy. In lymphedema, the lymph nodes are not able to drain lymph fluid sufficiently, causing swelling and fluid buildup. But since only the sentinel nodes will be removed, there will be lots of other lymph nodes left in the region to process the fluid adequately.

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY SIDE EFFECTS

Side effects rarely occur with a sentinel node biopsy. However, the possibility of bleeding, pain in the biopsy site, infection, and allergic reaction to the material used to locate the sentinel nodes may occur.

SENTINEL NODE BIOPSY RESULTS

The results of a sentinel node biopsy are basically used to develop an effective treatment plan. If the sentinel nodes did not show signs of cancer, then, that means the cancer has not spread.
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