Positive Sentinel Node Biopsy

Last Modified: June 10, 2007

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I had sentinel node biopsy and had 1 of 4 positive nodes. From what I have read, dissecting more nodes does nothing to decrease mortality, can cause lymphedema, and would be an additional surgery. I understand doctors like it for a prognosis, but what possible good does it do for me to know that I have additional positive nodes?

Answer

Nancy J. O'Connor, MSN, CRNP, Oncology Nurse Practioner for Breast Surgery at the Rowan Breast Center, responds:

Axillary dissection following a positive sentinel lymph node is considered the standard of care. Aside from providing more information to stage the cancer and prognostic information, medical oncologists prefer knowing the actual number of lymph nodes involved because it can directly influence the treatment regimen they recommend. For example, the overall number of nodes that are positive after axillary dissection determines the need for post-operative radiation therapy.

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