Sentinel Node Biopsy

A sentinel node biopsy is one of the most important tests performed during breast cancer diagnosis because it determines how far the breast cancer has advanced.

In normal, axillary lymph node dissection, some or all of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed. With sentinel node biopsy, a substance is injected near the tumor that allows the doctor to see which lymph node the substance flows to first. This is the sentinel lymph node, and it is the first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread. 

The sentinel lymph node is removed and examined under a microscope. If cancer is not found, the other lymph nodes may be left in place. If cancer is found, more lymph nodes may be removed.

Who Should Have a Sentinel Node Biopsy

  • Woman’s recommends all patients with invasive breast cancer undergo sentinel node biopsy to determine if the cancer has spread. 
  • A sentinel node biopsy is also recommended for women with non-invasive breast cancer if they are high-risk patients.
  • Many women elect to have sentinel node biopsy, which lessens the risk of lymphedema because fewer lymph nodes may need to be removed than with axillary lymph node dissection. 
Women interested in sentinel node biopsy should ask their doctor if it is available to them.

What to Expect

Patients having a sentinel node biopsy may have green/blue urine or stool due to the dye used in the procedure. The low level of radioactivity in your body is not dangerous and will go away completely in a few days. Wash your hands carefully after using the toilet for the first two days.