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Whenever someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to know whether the disease has spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit, as this helps guide further treatment.
In the diagnostic clinic, the Thames Breast Clinic radiologist will use an ultrasound to check if the lymph nodes look normal. If they look normal (as they do in 90%), then you will need a procedure called a sentinel node biopsy at the same time as your breast surgery. If the lymph nodes look abnormal on the ultrasound scan, the radiologist will take a biopsy. If the biopsy later shows cancer cells in the lymph nodes, you will need a procedure called an axillary node clearance at the same time as your breast surgery.
Sentinel node biopsy
This is a technique to help identify the main lymph node/s draining the breast. It involves injecting the breast with a radioactive dye as well as a blue dye prior to surgery to allow the surgeon locate the main sentinel lymph node.
Axillary node clearance
This is performed at the same time as the breast surgery and involves removing most of the lymph nodes from the armpit. It is performed when the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in this axilla. About 10 to15% of breast cancer patients need this surgery.