Next Steps After Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection

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If the sentinel node does NOT show any cancer, it is likely that no other axillary lymph nodes contain cancer. And the chances are good that the cancer has not spread beyond the breast. Treatment decisions can be made with this important information in mind.

If the sentinel node DOES contain cancer, another treatment step may be needed. There are several effective options:

  • A surgeon who suspects, right in the operating room, that the sentinel node is affected by cancer may decide to remove more nodes for evaluation (an axillary dissection) during the same operation.
  • If the laboratory finds significant cancer present in the sentinel node (or nodes) after surgery, the surgeon may recommend another operation—an axillary dissection—to remove and analyze more lymph nodes from the armpit.
  • Your medical team may recommend that radiation treatment of surrounding lymph nodes—instead of more surgery—is the best way to treat cancer that may have spread there.

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