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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: