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Lymph Node Evaluation

Once a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, the doctor explains whether or not it is necessary to remove any lymph nodes in the axilla (armpit). This decision is based on the type of breast cancer the patient has.

Evaluating lymph nodes requires a surgical incision. There are two ways this can be done: sentinel lymph node biopsy and axillary dissection. The surgeon will determine which procedure is appropriate for you.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

This procedure uses a special labeling substance that is injected into the breast to identify the first lymph nodes that might be at risk of having cancer. This procedure involves the removal of fewer lymph nodes than an axillary dissection and is now widely used by surgeons.

Axillary Dissection

This procedure involves surgical removal of several lymph nodes in the axilla (armpit).

Graphic: NCI logo

Learn more about sentinal lymph node biopsy from the National Cancer Institute.

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