The ‘sentinel’ lymph nodes in the armpit are the first sites a primary cancer is most likely to spread to (metastasise).
In this procedure, your surgeon will identify and remove the sentinel node, so that it can be examined by a pathologist, who will determine if cancer cells are indeed present. It is minimally invasive and has fewer side effects than an axillary clearance. For example, normally, they will only remove one to three nodes for a sentinel lymph-node biopsy; a full axillary clearance, by comparison, normally requires the removal of 10 to 15 nodes.
If your biopsy is negative, it means you’ll need no further treatment to the axilla (armpit). Your surgeon will then discuss this result with the multi-disciplinary team working on your case, and continue to follow up with you, closely.
If, however, your biopsy shows cancer has spread to the sentinel node, your surgeon will discuss with you the possibility of a full axillary clearance.
We believe it is important that a sentinel lymph-node biopsy should be performed by a surgeon who specialises in breast cancer surgery.