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This is a technique for detecting if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. It isolates the sentinel node which is the first node to receive lymph fluid from the breast tumour. This sentinel node is then removed and examined under the microscope by the pathologist for the presence of cancer cells. This surgery is usually carried out at the same time as breast surgery but is occasionally performed as a separate surgery


The service

Preparation for your Surgery:

  • Prior to surgery, a radioactive substance may be injected by the radiologist into the area surrounding the nipple. This procedure is done in The Nuclear Medicine department and may be followed by a special x-ray.
  • In theatre, the surgeon may also inject a blue dye into the breast to help to identify the sentinel node. This may cause staining of the surrounding skin.
  • Urine may be stained blue for 24 hours afterwards also.
  • Occasionally the blue dye injection is used in isolation.
  • During your surgery the sentinel node is identified as it contains the radioactive particles from the injection given in The Nuclear Medicine department, or by its blue colour if blue dye is used.
  • After the sentinel lymph node(s) is removed they are sent to the laboratory for analysis. This process takes at least 7-10 working days.
  • If the sentinel node is free of cancer, an axillary clearance (removal of the remaining lymph nodes in the arm pit) will not be required
  • When a sentinel node biopsy is performed, there is a very small chance that cancer cells could be present in the other lymph nodes in the armpit.

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