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. The tracer, Lymphoseek, targets and binds tightly to lymph nodes within 15 minutes, and for up to 30 hours, allowing the surgeon to immediately locate and remove the sentinel node (the first lymph node to pick up the tracer, and any other affected nodes).
Most patients go to surgery shortly after the tracer is injected and a nuclear imaging scan reveals the affected nodes. There are usually no side effects, and most patients go home the same day.
Questions or Scheduling
Our Breast Health team is here to answer questions and help address any concerns you have about preventing or treating breast cancer and breast abnormalities. Call our Breast Health nurses at (941) 917-2688 for information. To schedule a mammogram or other breast imaging test, call (941) 917-7322.