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Sentinel Node Dissection

Underlying Problem Requiring Sentinel Node Dissection:
When a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, more than just the breast tissue is involved. Because the cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, it is often necessary to remove and examine the lymph nodes. Sentinel node dissection allows for the removal of only the lymph nodes that are most likely to have cancerous cells in them.
Sentinel node dissection is usually indicated for women who are in early stages of breast cancer. These patients actually have a fairly low likelihood that the lymph nodes are involved. It is a relatively new procedure, so it is still being honed and perfected.

Treatment:

A patient will be put under a general anesthetic for a sentinel node dissection. Once he or she is asleep, the doctor will make an incision and inject a blue dye/radioactive liquid solution near the tumor. The sentinel nodes are the ones that are closest to the tumor and would therefore filter fluid from it. If cancer cells have \"escaped\" from the tumor, some are likely to be trapped in the sentinel node. The nodes are removed for testing. Some of the surrounding nodes will often be removed, as well.

The nodes will go to the pathology department, and examination will find whether or not they contain cancerous cells. If cancer is present (node-positive), it may be necessary to remove more nodes or to undergo radiation treatment. If no cancer is present (node-negative), then the disease has likely not spread in this manner.

Recovery from Sentinel Node Dissection:

Most patients will return home the same day as the surgery, although an overnight stay may sometimes be required. There may be some numbness or pain around the surgery site. Patients can usually return to most activities within a day or two of a sentinel node dissection, and scarring is minimal.

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