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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. In 2014, the American Society of Clinical Oncology released new guidelines on sentinel lymph node biopsy for people diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. There are several effective options:

  • Women with one or two positive sentinel nodes who plan to have lumpectomy plus radiation don’t need axillary node surgery,
  • Women who have one or more positive sentinel nodes and plan to have mastectomy with no radiation should be offered axillary node surgery.
  • 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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