Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Melanoma
The sentinel nodes are the first nodes that drain lymph fluids from a tumor area. These nodes should be the first to show cancer cells. If there is no cancer in these nodes, it is not likely that cancer is present in other lymph nodes. It is helpful to know if there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes in order to make a treatment plan.
In many cases, this type of biopsy can be done instead of taking out a large number of lymph nodes. There are likely to be fewer side effects when fewer nodes are removed.
On the day before or on the day of surgery, you will go to Nuclear Medicine, where they will inject a tracer around the tumor area. The tracer travels from the tissue to the lymph nodes. After the injection, the area will be scanned. This will help show which nodes communicate with the tumor. The node biopsy is done while you are in surgery. At that time, the surgeon will inject blue dye around the tumor site. The dye and/or tracer create a map of the lymph nodes showing which one(s) need to be removed. After the correct nodes are removed, the pathologist will inspect the nodes for cancer.
The blue dye may cause the skin around the tumor site to stain blue for a few weeks. The dye may cause the urine to look green-blue for 24 hours.
In most cases only a few lymph nodes will be removed. If there are abnormal looking nodes or if the sentinel node cannot be found, your doctor may need to remove more nodes.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/31/2011
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