Sentinel lymph node surgery is one of the latest breast surgery techniques available in this country, and is used to detect the spread of cancer. Now available at The Princess Margaret Hospital, this surgery has reduced the number of patients needing to undergo extensive and often painful armpit surgery to check whether the disease has spread.
Breast cancer can spread along small lymph channels to the lymph glands (nodes) in the armpit. Knowing whether cancer is in the lymph glands helps patients and consultants decide what further treatment is required.
Before the availability of sentinel lymph node surgery, the only way to find out if cancer cells had spread to the lymph glands was to have full armpit surgery to remove a variable amount (usually up to 30). In about 6 out of 10 women, once tested, the glands turn out to be free of cancer, and therefore this type of surgery was unnecessary.
The sentinel lymph node is the gland or glands in the armpit most likely to contain cancer if the breast cancer has spread. Once the sentinel lymph node has been found and removed, only those women with a cancerous sentinel lymph node will require further armpit treatment.
Call the hospital’s Helpline below for names of consultants offering sentinel lymph node surgery for breast cancer.