What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

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  • In an axillary sentinel lymph node, the surgeon removes the first lymph nodes under the arm (axilla) to which breast cancer cells may spread from the primary tumor location.
  • This procedure:
    • Helps to evaluate the extent of disease and assists the oncologist in determining whether chemotherapy or radiation therapy is required
    • Helps the surgeon determine whether an axillary lymph node dissection is needed
    • May potentially avoid unnecessary removal of lymph nodes in the axilla, helping to reduce both the length of surgery and the risk of developing lymphedema, a condition in which fluids builds up in the extremities