Lymph nodes removal surgery

Lymph nodes removal surgery

Lymph nodes removal surgery

Lymph node removal is a surgical procedure to take out one or more of your lymph nodes. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.

There are two main reasons for removing lymph nodes. One or more lymph nodes may be removed to check whether your cancer has spread. Knowing this helps your doctor plan the best cancer treatment for you. And if tests have shown that the cancer has reached your lymph nodes, you may have them taken out to remove the cancer. This helps to reduce the chance that your cancer will come back.

We can only give a very general overview of removal of lymph nodes here. Your experience may vary depending on the type of cancer you have and your own individual circumstances.

Checking your lymph nodes

After being diagnosed with melanoma, you have tests to find out whether it has spread anywhere else in the body. This is called staging and helps your doctor decide on treatment.

Your doctor might find out that melanoma has spread to your lymph nodes after:

  • a physical examination shows your lymph nodes feel abnormally large or hard
  • a scan shows that your lymph nodes appear abnormal
  • a sentinel node biopsy finds melanoma cells in your lymph nodes - this is when your lymph nodes look and feel normal, but the surgeon removes the first lymph node or nodes that a melanoma could have spread to to see if they contain cancer

If your lymph nodes look or feel abnormal

Your doctor usually takes a sample of tissue (biopsy) from lymph nodes that feel swollen (enlarged) or appear abnormal on a scan. If the biopsy shows melanoma in a node or nodes, they usually offer you an operation to remove all of the lymph nodes in that area.

If a sentinel node biopsy shows melanoma in your lymph nodes

This is called a positive sentinel node biopsy. You may have regular ultrasound scans to check your lymph nodes to see if the cancer grows (progresses). Or you might have treatment such as targeted cancer drugs or immunotherapy. You don’t usually have surgery to remove the rest of the lymph nodes after a positive sentinel lymph node biopsy.

What Is An Axillary Node Dissection?

This procedure is a method for determining if the cancer has spread to more than one of your lymph nodes. Axillary node dissection removes some of the the axillary lymph nodes, which are the lymph nodes located in the underarm. Once removed, they are dissected and examined.

Do the Lymph Nodes always need to be removed?

Not always, especially when there is no evidence of any cancer in the lymph system. A mastectomy or lumpectomy operation will most often include either a sentinel node biopsy or an axillary node dissection. Both procedures involve a separate incision for lumpectomy patients. Following surgery, the pathologist will test the lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread past the breast.

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Signs of lymphedema

Lymphedema can develop suddenly or gradually and can happen months or years after your surgery. Watch for signs of lymphedema, which include:

  • A feeling of heaviness, aching, or pain in your breast, arm, hand, or fingers
  • A tight feeling in the skin of your arm, hand, or breast
  • Decreased flexibility in your arm, hand, or fingers
  • Swelling or changes in your skin, such as tightness or pitting (skin that stays indented after being pressed). If you have swelling, you may notice that:
  • The veins in the hand on your affected side are less noticeable than on the other hand.
  • The rings on the finger(s) of your affected side are tighter or do not fit.
  • The shirt sleeve on your affected side feels tighter than usual.

If you have any signs of lymphedema, or you’re not sure, talk with your doctor or nurse. If you don’t have signs of lymphedema, you can have your blood pressure measured on your affected side.

What to expect

Recovery depends on the extent of the surgery and the site where the lymph nodes were removed.


Surgery to remove lymph nodes can cause many side effects. The risks of lymphadenectomy include:

  • Buildup of fluid at the site of surgery (seroma).
  • Swelling of a limb affected by removal of the lymph nodes (lymphedema).
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the surgical area.
  • Breakdown (sloughing) of skin over the area.

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10 common questions about Lymph nodes removal surgery

1How long does lymph node removal surgery take?
You will probably be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. It will also depend on the type of work you do and any further treatment. You may be able to take showers (unless you have a drain in your incision) 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
2Why are lymph nodes removed?
Examining your lymph nodes helps your doctors figure out the extent of cancer involvement. Cancer in the lymph nodes is associated with an increased risk of having cancer cells in other parts of your body. ... Surgery to remove some or all of the lymph nodes under your arm is called axillary lymph node dissection
3What happens when lymph nodes are removed from armpit?
Lymph node surgery can lead to uncomfortable temporary side effects, such as lymph backup in the armpit, called seroma. ... Finally, the more surgery a woman has in the breast/armpit area, the more potential there is for numbness, heightened sensitivity, and discomfort
4Is it dangerous to have lymph nodes removed?
Like all procedures, lymph node removal can cause some side-effects but these are mostly temporary. After having your lymph nodes removed, you may have: pain, swelling and bruising.
5Does having lymph nodes removed affect your immune system?
If you had lymph nodes removed, your immune system may not work as well on that side of your body. The more lymph nodes and vessels you had taken out, the greater the potential impact
6How long does pain last after lymph node removal?
You may have some mild swelling in your arm right after your surgery. This swelling may last for up to 6 weeks, but it's temporary and will gradually go away. You may also feel pain or other sensations, such as twinges and tingling, after your surgery.
7Is lymph node removal outpatient?
It's typically an outpatient procedure, which means you don't have to stay overnight at the facility. With a lymph node biopsy, your doctor may remove the entire lymph node, or take a tissue sample from the swollen lymph node
8How long does it take to heal from lymph node removal in groin?
This is usually after around four weeks. You should check with your insurance company before returning to driving, as your cover may be affected. The majority of patients recover well and return to work and normal activities after about four to six weeks.
9What is cording after lymph node removal?
Cording after breast surgery. AWS is usually a side effect that occurs after surgery to remove a sentinel lymph node or multiple lymph nodes from the area of your underarm. This procedure is most often done in relation to breast cancer treatment and surgeries.
10What is the survival rate of lymph node cancer?
The one-year survival rate for all patients diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma is about 92 percent. The five-year survival rate is about 86 percent


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