Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
The University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, the state's only comprehensive cancer center, offers sentinel lymph node biopsy as a way to evaluate the spread of cancer cells.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy determines if cancer cells have spread from the primary tumor to nearby lymph nodes. This procedure examines and removes the first lymph node (the sentinel node) that the cancer may spread to from the primary tumor.
The sentinel nodes are the first nodes that drain the lymphatic fluids from a tumor area. These nodes should be the first to show cancer cells. If there is no cancer in the sentinel node(s), 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.