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Sentinel Node Biopsy (cont.)

After the Sentinel Node Biopsy Procedure

Patients who undergo a sentinel lymph node biopsy are taken to the recovery room following the procedure. Most are released from the hospital the same day. The radioactive tracer safely dissipates, mostly in the urine, within 24-48 hours.

The incision usually heals within a few weeks. Regular activities can be performed within a few days.

Next Steps after Sentinel Node Biopsy

If the sentinel lymph node was not examined during surgery, the pathologist tests it for cancer cells soon afterward. The doctor addresses the findings of the examination during a follow-up visit.

If the pathologist finds cancer cells in the sentinel lymph node, the patient usually undergoes a follow-up surgery to undergo an axillary lymph node dissection. This involves removing and testing the remaining lymph nodes in the area of the original biopsy for cancer cells. Depending on the findings and the choice of primary breast surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy), women who undergo surgery to stage breast cancer or to remove breast tumors may also be treated with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Sentinel Node Biopsy Risks

Sentinel node biopsy is a procedure that is designed to minimize risks. It is a useful tool for staging breast and other cancers and determining what further treatment is appropriate to offer the patient to provide the highest possible chance of survival. Sentinel node biopsy is also an emerging procedure designed to minimize the risks associated with an axillary lymph node dissection. The most significant risk is that a sentinel node biopsy results in a determination that cancer cells are not metastasizing in the body when, in fact, they really are. This is called a false-negative result. This is a reason that a woman should ensure that her surgeon has performed the procedure several times with accurate results before she undergoes the surgery.

Rarely, a patient can have an allergic reaction to the blue dye. The most mild and most common type of allergic reaction is hives. Hives are usually seen within 24 hours of the dye injection. A very rare patient will have a severe allergic reaction, but this usually happens within minutes of the injection of the dye. Other possible risks of a sentinel node biopsy may occur and are usually mild in severity. These include the following:

  • Pain, discomfort, or fluid collection causing a lump, or numbness (usually short-lived) in the area of the incision
  • Bluish discoloration of the breast tissue (usually temporary, but can be permanent) following injection of the blue dye
  • Drowsiness

The following are possible complications following most surgical procedures:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/27/2016
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