Breast Cancer (Facts, Stages) (cont.)

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What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy, and what are its benefits and risks?

A sentinel node biopsy takes advantage of a peculiar physiologic and anatomical finding. Although there may be many lymph nodes in a particular drainage region, it appears that only one or two are the first recipients of the regional fluids.

This means that if any nodes will be involved by tumor spread, the sentinel node will be the first. It also means in general that if the sentinel node is not involved, then no other nodes will be affected. Therefore, only the sentinel node needs to be removed. There are techniques for removing just the sentinel nodes. A sentinel node biopsy allows the pathologist to more intensively study this node and apply specialized techniques that are capable of detecting even a few cancer cells.

Are there any other questions I should ask my doctor?

Yes. There are surely other questions you will wish to ask. Do not hesitate to be very open about your concerns with your doctor. The foregoing questions and comments should demonstrate that the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer may not be a simple process. Even when all the information is available, there may be difficulties in deciding a proper course of action. However, this decision-making process has a better chance of success when you and the doctor are well-informed and communicating effectively. Although the information here cannot be all-inclusive, we hope it will help you work through this process.

REFERENCE:

Hammer, C., A. Fanning, and J. Crowe. "Overview of Breast Cancer Staging and Surgical Treatment Options." Cleve Clin J Med. 75.1 Mar. 2008: S10-6.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015

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