Lymph node removal for breast cancer
Sentinel node biopsy, axillary lymph node dissection
Lymph node removal surgery may be performed to determine if your breast cancer has spread beyond your breast. Duke breast cancer surgeons in Durham, Raleigh and Cary use different methods to remove one or more lymph nodes from under your arm. Lymph node removal is an important step that will guide the treatment decisions your breast cancer team will discuss with you.
Why are lymph node biopsies important in breast cancer care?
It is important for your breast cancer surgeon to identify whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes because it may impact your breast cancer treatment decisions. Once the lymph nodes are removed, the sample will be studied by an expert Duke pathologist who specializes in breast cancer. That is one of the benefits of being seen at a large breast cancer center like Duke. Our experts have years of experience and have dedicated their careers to diagnosing and treating breast cancer.
There are two types of lymph node surgeries, a sentinel lymph node biopsy and axillary lymph node dissection. Each are performed for specific reasons that your breast cancer surgeon will discuss with you. Your surgeon will also discuss the risks, including the risk of lymphedema, a potential side effect of lymph node surgery characterized by a build-up of fluid that causes swelling in the arm. Our breast cancer surgeons minimize the risks of side effects by using the latest techniques to remove lymph nodes as part of a biopsy, during mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Choose an experienced breast surgeon for lymph node removal
When deciding who should perform your lymph node removal, it’s important to consider your breast surgeon’s experience, as well as the care provided by the breast cancer center at which you will be treated.
- At Duke, our dedicated breast surgeons only see breast patients. Many have undergone advanced fellowship training to treat diseases of the breast, including breast cancer. Breast surgical oncologists who only see people with breast cancer often have the most experience treating your breast cancer. They draw upon the latest research findings to ensure you receive the best treatments available.
- Your convenience and comfort are important. Choosing a breast cancer center near to your home minimizes the impact your breast cancer treatment has on your daily activities and your quality of life. Duke cancer centers in Durham, Raleigh, and Cary are close to your home or work. Imaging, testing, and breast cancer treatments are available at our cancer centers.
Your breast cancer care is our top priority. Our doctors work as a team, which means you will see many members of your breast cancer team during your appointment. That goes a long way toward reducing unnecessary stress and anxiety. It also ensures you have all the information you need to make decisions about your care. In addition, if you seek care at Duke and continue your radiation or chemotherapy closer to home, our doctors will coordinate your treatment plan with your doctors. We also provide second opinions and share information with doctors near you.
LYMPH NODE REMOVAL
Lymph node surgeries for breast cancer
Sentinel lymph node biopsy may be recommended when lymph nodes appear normal and seem unlikely to contain cancer cells. The breast surgeon injects a radioactive tracer and/or blue dye into the breast and observes the tracer’s path to identify the sentinel lymph nodes. These are the first ones that a breast tumor would drain into if your cancer has spread. The lymph nodes are removed and tested for cancer. This procedure requires fewer lymph nodes to be removed and dramatically reduces your chances of developing lymphedema.
If the lymph nodes feel abnormal, or if a biopsy has shown the presence of cancer, your breast surgeon may remove 10 or more lymph nodes from under the arm. They are tested for cancer. Axillary lymph node dissection involves a longer recovery and higher risk of lymphedema.