Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is a surgical procedure used as part of cancer staging, a way of determining how far cancer has spread in the body. The sentinel node is the first node which drains from the primary tumor, and it is used to determine whether cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor. SLNB can provide doctors with important information that can help with diagnosis and treatment.

Preparing for the Procedure

Before undergoing SLNB, a patient must consult with a doctor and answer any questions. During the consultation, the doctor will provide instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. These instructions may include fasting for up to 8 hours before the procedure, informing the doctor about any allergies, and informing the doctor about any medications being taken.

The Procedure

SLNB is a fairly simple procedure that is generally performed in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility. A patient is typically administered general anesthesia, meaning they will be asleep during the operation. To identify the sentinel lymph node, the doctor will inject a radioactive tracer or blue dye around the area of the tumor. Using a scanner, the doctor will then be able to locate the node in the patient’s body. The sentinel node is then removed and examined for cancer cells.

Types of Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

There are two types of SLNB, the gamma probe method and the blue dye method. In the gamma probe method, the doctor will use a handheld probe to detect the radioactivity from the tracer injected into the body. In the blue dye method, the doctor will use a blue dye that will selectively migrate to the sentinel lymph node. The doctor can then locate the node by visually identifying the area of the body that is stained with the dye.

Risks of SLNB

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is considered a very safe procedure, but like any medical procedure, risks are involved. These risks include bleeding, infection, numbness, and possible damage to surrounding organs. In addition, SLNB is not 100% accurate in determining whether cancer has spread. In some cases, the sentinel node might not be the first node that drains from the tumor, resulting in a false negative result.

Why Have SLNB?

SLNB is an important diagnostic tool for cancer staging and provides very important information for doctors and patients alike. It can help doctors to determine the type and extent of treatment needed and may even help to spare patients from receiving unnecessary treatments. The procedure is also less invasive than traditional lymph node biopsies and can reduce risks, such as infection, that are associated with more invasive surgeries.

When to Have SLNB

Most doctors recommend SLNB for patients with certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer or melanoma, that have a higher risk of spreading beyond the primary tumor. However, not all patients with these conditions are suitable candidates for SLNB, and doctors will evaluate each case individually. In some cases, doctors may decide that SLNB is not the best option and may instead perform a more traditional lymph node biopsy.