Sentinel lymph node biopsy

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure in which tissue is removed from the lymph nodes closest to an existing site of infection, cancer, or other disease. The test can help tell whether the condition has spread.

Lymph nodes are small glands found in groups throughout the body. These groups of nodes make up the lymphatic system, which helps the body to fight infections. If a biopsy of the sentinel node is positive for signs of infection or disease, there is a greater chance that the infection or disease has spread throughout the lymphatic system and bloodstream to other parts of the body.

For example, a woman with breast cancer who has a sentinel lymph node biopsy will usually have the tissue sample removed from the lymph nodes located under her arm. If the examination of the tissue does not show signs of cancer cells, it is not likely that the cancer has spread beyond the breast area.

Sentinel node biopsy can be used as an alternative to conventional lymph node dissection for staging breast cancer and melanoma. It allows a doctor to obtain accurate information about the entire lymphatic system without making a person have more invasive surgery.

Last Updated: March 31, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Brent Shoji, MD - General Surgery

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.