What is a sentinel node biospy?

Sentinel node biopsy is a way of pinpointing the first few lymph nodes into which a breast tumor may spread (called the "sentinel" nodes). This helps doctors remove only those nodes of the lymphatic system that are most likely to contain cancer cells. Usually one to three lymph nodes are removed.

In breast cancer, the sentinel node is usually located in the axillary nodes, under the arm. In a small percentage of cases, the sentinel node is found somewhere else in the lymphatic system that drains the breast. If the sentinel node(s) show cancer cells, there may be other positive lymph nodes involved. If negative, it is highly likely that all of the upstream nodes are negative.

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