A sentinel lymph node is the first point of contact for the cancer. A sentinel node is a small, non-threatening, cancer-causing lysoma that can be removed and examined for cancer cells.

The concept of sentinel lymph node biopsy was proposed in 1960, but it took nearly 40 years for it to come into standard practice. It’s now regularly performed for breast cancer, melanoma, and some other types of cancer.

In this article, we take a deep look at the procedure and when it can be performed.

A sentinel lymph node is the most likely location of a tumor to spread based on the direction of the fluid in the tumor. The name comes from the word “sentinel” which means a soldier standing guard at a point of passage.

Depending on the type of cancer, the location of a sentinel lymph node can be different. If the cancer is near your breastbone, the sentinel lymph node can be found in your chest.

The location of the sentinel lymph node can be a factor in determining the location of melanoma. There are more than one sentinel lymph nodes in some cases.

Doctors use a radioactive substance or dye to identify the sentinel lymph nodes.

A sentinel lymph node is removed to check for cancer cells. It can help doctors stage the cancer after the initial diagnosis.

Different treatment is given to cancers that have spread beyond the original tumor.

Sentinel lymph biopsies are most commonly used to stage breast cancer and melanoma. They’re also used to stage endometrial cancer and penile cancer.

People with other types of cancer are good candidates for a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Researchers are looking into potential benefits.

The use of sentinel lymph nodes biopsy has changed how breast cancer is managed.

Research has found no difference in survival between women who receive a sentinel lymph node biopsy over a much more invasive procedure called an axillary lymph node dissection, which can involve removing up to 40 lymph nodes.

The benefits of sentinel node biopsy for early stage melanoma remain controversial. Studies have found that it can provide useful prognostic information but can increase the short-term management cost fourfold.

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is usually done at the same time as your primary tumor removal. You can expect this:

  1. Your surgeon will try to locate your sentinel lymph nodes. They will inject a radioactive substance or blue dye near your tumor.
  2. Immediately after the injection and again after 1 to 2 hours, they’ll perform a lymphoscintigram or lymphatic drainage scan. This scan allows them to see a road map of how the dye moves through your lymphatic channels and where the dye drains.
  3. Your surgeon will make a small incision to remove the lymph node once it is located.
  4. A pathologist will look at the cancer cells in a lab. If they find cancer, you may have more lysies removed in the same procedure.

You may be able to go home the same day as your procedure, or you may have to stay in the hospital.

Potential risks or complications

The risk of some complications is the same for every type of surgical procedure. Most people have no side effects.

  • swelling
  • It is a pain.
  • It was bruised.
  • fatigue

If you received a blue dye, your urine may change color for a few days.

A potentially It is a pain.ful complication of lymph node removal is lymphedema, which is a buildup of lymph fluid that can cause swelling. According to a 2022 study, the chances of developing lymphedema after a sentinel lymph node biopsy is approximately 5%.

In a 2020 study, researchers found that the sentinel node identification rates vary depending on which substance is injected. They found that successful identification rates were:

  • 100% for duals.
  • 99.4% of radioisotopes are used.
  • For blue dye, 89.1%.

A positive result on your biopsy shows that the cancer has spread to the sample lysical organ or the lysical organ.

“A negative result shows that the cancer hasn’t spread to your organs.”

“It is possible to have a false negative result if the cancer cells aren’t seen in the biopsy.”

In a 2020 study, researchers found that sentinel lymph node biopsy correctly identified cancer in 91% of node samples in people with lobular carcinoma of the breast.

Older and obese people tend to have more false negatives than people who are younger or aren’t obese.

The next step depends on the result of the biopsy. Your healthcare team can help you decide on your treatment options.

If your result is negative, there’s a very low chance that your cancer has spread to other lymph nodes and no further lymph node surgery will likely be needed. You may receive other treatments for the primary cancer such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

A positive biopsy could mean that more lymph nodes need to be removed to assess how far the cancer has spread. It is likely that it means more extensive cancer treatment.

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure where doctors remove the most likely to spread your cancer.

“A pathologist will look at this lymph node. If they don’t find evidence of cancer, it’s unlikely that your tumor has spread to any other part of the body.”

The most common type of sentinel lymph node biopsy is for breast cancer, but it is also used for many other types of cancer.