Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping
Treating Breast Cancer
When treating breast cancer, it is very important to know if the cancer has spread beyond the breast. Fortunately, for many, the risk of metastasis – the medical term used to describe cancer that has spread to other parts of the body – is relatively low.
Lymphoscintigraphy, or sentinel lymph node mapping, is an imaging test used to check the lymph system for the spread of cancer, and to locate and biopsy the sentinel lymph node. The sentinel node is the first node that filters fluid from the breast and typically the first to be affected by the spread of cancer.
It also helps doctors stage your cancer and determine the best course of treatment.
If the sentinel node does not contain cancer, there is a high likelihood that the cancer has not spread to any other area of the body, which may reduce the amount of surgery or radiation/chemotherapy you may need. If the sentinel node is positive, the surgeon may perform an axillary (underarm) node dissection to assess how many other lymph nodes are affected.
Preparing for Your Visit
In most cases, your sentinel lymph node mapping and surgery will be scheduled together as a same-day outpatient procedure; in some cases, it may require an overnight stay.
On the day of the scheduled procedure, patients are asked to arrive a few hours early at Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Center, located across the street from the main hospital in the Waldemere Medical Plaza, 1921 Waldemere Street, Suite 110.
There, a radiologist will inject a small amount of a non-toxic radioactive tracer into the breast. Following the injection, you will be taken to the hospital’s Nuclear Medicine Department for an imaging study (scan). The first lymph node to pick up the tracer is the sentinel node.
Most patients go to surgery within two hours of their scan, which aids the surgeon in locating and removing the sentinel node. That and any other affected lymph nodes are removed and sent to the hospital’s Pathology lab for testing. A non-toxic blue dye is usually injected by the surgeon during surgery to aid in detecting the entinel lymph node.
There are usually no side effects, and most patients go home the same day. Be aware that if the blue dye is used, your urine may temporarily turn green. If you are, or suspect you might be pregnant, please tell your doctor, nurse or technician.
If you have any questions about your tests or treatments, call Sarasota Memorial’s Breast Health Center at (941) 917-2636.