Patients who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or melanoma may be asked to undergo sentinel node biopsy or take sentinel node injections.

Specialists will order sentinel node injections to evaluate whether the cancer cells have spread from their primary site into the lymph nodes. Considered a safe practice, the procedure effectively helps doctors in their efforts to contain the spread of cancer cells from their primary site to the lymph nodes.

Sentinel nodes are the first nodes that drain cancer cells. To prevent the spread of cancer cells throughout the other lymph nodes in the armpits, sentinel nodes must be identified and removed.

What to expect during the procedure

A radioactive tracer is injected into the breast prior to the sentinel node biopsy. The radioactive tracer spreads through the lymph nodes in the body. The surgeon will use a gamma detector to locate the radioactive tracer’s spread and identify the sentinel lymph nodes, and then make an incision to remove the sentinel nodes.

These sentinel nodes are then sent to a pathology lab and evaluated for any signs of cancer.

If the sentinel nodes show the presence of cancer cells, the doctor might recommend another biopsy to remove and analyze more lymph nodes in other parts of the body.

How to prepare for the procedure

Patients should follow specific guidelines that will help make the sentinel node injection procedure more effective and comfortable.

  • Patients might be asked to avoid eating or drinking before the procedure. This helps minimize any anesthesia complications during the procedure.
  • Patients should discuss their prescribed medications with their physician and only take the medications with their physicians’ approval.

TOPS Surgical Specialty Hospital/TOPS Comprehensive Breast Center is an outpatient facility equipped with the latest medical technology to help physicians provide excellent patient care. From full diagnostics including 3D mammography to custom treatment options, TOPS Surgical Specialty Hospital is the choice of some of the Houston area’s best specialists.

Our facility features nine operating rooms and 15 surgical beds that can be used to perform procedures in the specialty areas of ENT, general surgery, gynecology, podiatry, orthopedics, and spinal surgery, among others. Our cutting-edge technological equipment and our trained staff enhance the surgical experience for physicians as well as patients.

Contact us to learn more about TOPS Surgical Specialty Hospital/TOPS Comprehensive Breast Center and our staff, and to find a physician specialist who’s right for you.