Making the Decision to Have a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is still being studied. Your doctor may suggest it if you have any of these stages of breast cancer.

  • Stage I, which means the cancer cells have not spread to your lymph nodes and the tumor is less than 2 cm.

  • Stage II, which means the cancer has spread to your underarm lymph nodes and/or the tumor in the breast is 2 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) across.

  • Stage IIIA, which means the tumor in your breast is usually large (more than 2 inches across), the cancer in your underarm lymph nodes is extensive, or it has spread to other lymph node areas or to other tissues near the breast.

  • Operable Stage IIIC, which means the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under your breastbone and under your arm, or it has spread to your lymph nodes under or above your collarbone. The tumor may be any size.

If you fall into one of those groups, and you also meet these criteria, you may want to consider having this procedure.

  • You have had no prior chemotherapy.

  • You have had no prior hormone therapy.

  • You have a small tumor.

If the sentinel biopsy does not show cancer in your lymph node, you can preserve your other underarm lymph nodes. Having your underarm lymph nodes removed isn’t a dangerous operation but can cause some side effects such as swelling in your arm.



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