Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
How It Is Done
You will need to take off clothing near
the biopsy site. You will wear a gown for a covering during the test.
If you are very anxious about the biopsy, you may be given a medicine
(sedative) to help you relax.
Before a sentinel node biopsy is
done, the dye or tracer is injected into the area, and a special camera
(lymphoscintigraphy) takes pictures of the lymph nodes. Some doctors use pain medicine with the dye to reduce discomfort. The dye may turn your
skin blue for a few days after the biopsy.
The first lymph node or
nodes to absorb the tracer are called the sentinel nodes. This node or nodes
and the tissue around them are taken out. You may have a numbing medicine
(local anesthesia) or go to sleep for the biopsy. The
lymph node sample is cut into many thin slices and looked at under a microscope
for cancer. You will have some stitches and a bandage over the biopsy site.
A sentinel lymph node biopsy usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but
may take longer. If you have general anesthesia, you will be watched by a nurse
in the recovery room until you are fully awake.
Your doctor will
give you specific instructions to take care of your biopsy site. During your
follow-up visit, your doctor will discuss the results of your biopsy with you
and take out your stitches.
How It Feels
You may feel a sharp sting or burn from
the medicine used to numb the biopsy site or from the dye or tracer. Feeling
pressure or warmth during the biopsy is normal, but you should feel little or
no pain. If you have pain, tell your doctor. If you feel like you are having an
allergic reaction, tell your doctor. This can happen
with the dye used for this biopsy.
If you have general anesthesia, you
may feel drowsy for several hours after the biopsy. You may have a mild sore
throat from the tube used to help you breathe during the biopsy. Throat
lozenges and gargling with warm salt water may help soothe your sore throat.
You may get medicine at the biopsy site that will help with the pain for 6 to
12 hours. You may have more pain after this medicine wears off.
The biopsy site may be sore for several days. A small amount of bleeding
is normal. Ask your doctor how much drainage to expect. Call your doctor
immediately if you have:
- An increase in pain, redness, or swelling at
the biopsy site.
- A fever.
- An increase in bleeding or
drainage, such as pus.
- Any swelling in your arm.
It is possible to have some problems after a
biopsy. Your doctor will give you instructions on what to do if a problem
- Bleeding from the biopsy site. This risk is
higher for people who have bleeding problems or who take blood-thinning
medicines. If you are at risk for bleeding, you may be given blood clotting
factors before the biopsy.
- Skin numbness at the biopsy
- Infection at the biopsy site
- Swelling and fluid
buildup (lymphedema). This is less likely after a sentinel node biopsy
than if more lymph nodes are taken out (axillary
- Problems from general anesthesia, if it is
- Damage to nerves at the biopsy site. This may cause weakness