Integrated Cancer Care

Panorama Centre For Surgical Oncology

Sential Lymph Node Biopsy

What is a Sentinel Node Biopsy

Sentinel node biopsy is a surgical procedure used to determine whether cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into your lymphatic system. It’s used most commonly in evaluating breast cancer and melanoma.
The sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes draining a specific area or organ.  We can identify which node is the sentinel node by injecting a tracer liquid which drains from the injection site to the node and stays there, helping us to find it during surgery. The sentinel nodes are completely removed and sent to the pathology laboratory for evaluation.

If the sentinel nodes are free of cancer, then cancer is unlikely to have spread to other nodes, and removing additional lymph nodes is unnecessary.

If a sentinel lymph node biopsy contains cancer cells, there is a risk of more nodes being involved and further treatment will be required such as removing more lymph nodes or adding radiation to the area.

When do we do it?

Sentinel node biopsy is recommended for people with certain types of cancer to determine whether the cancer cells have spread into the lymphatic system.

Sentinel node biopsy is routinely used for people with:

  • Breast cancer – Stage I and II
  • Melanoma which is 1-4mm thick

Sentinel node biopsy may be used under certain circumstances for other types of cancer, such as:

  • Head and neck cancer like tongue cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Oesophageal cancer

How do I become a patient at PACSO?

We believe that every patient has the right to the best treatment available with a team where they feel safe and cared for.
Phone +27 (0)21 939 7790 or email info@pacso.co.za to set up an appointment.
The more information we have about your case before your visit, the better we can prepare.

Risks

Sentinel node biopsy is considered a safe procedure, but as with any surgery, it carries a small risk of complications, including:

  • Bleeding after the procedure into the wound
  • Pain or bruising at the operation site
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction if a dye is used (we mostly make use of a radionuclide)
  • Lymphoedema — a condition in which the lymph vessels can’t adequately drain lymph fluid from an area of your body, causing fluid buildup and swelling

Lymphoedema

Although lymphedema is an unlikely complication of sentinel node biopsy, one of the main reasons sentinel node biopsy was developed was to decrease the chance of developing lymphedema, which is more likely to occur if many lymph nodes are removed from one area.

Because only a few lymph nodes are removed, the risk of lymphedema after sentinel node biopsy is small. Dozens of other lymph nodes remain in the area of your body where the sentinel node biopsy is done. In most cases, those remaining lymph nodes can effectively process the lymph fluid.

Is there someone who can help treat Lymphoedema at PACSO?

We believe that every patient has the right to the best treatment available with a team where they feel safe and cared for.
Phone +27 (0)21 939 7790 or email info@pacso.co.za to set up an appointment.
The more information we have about your case before your visit, the better we can prepare.

Panorama Centre for Surgical Oncology