What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy for lung cancer?
A sentinel lymph node biopsy, also known as a sentinel lymph node dissection, is a surgical procedure used to evaluate if your lung cancer is spreading into the lymph nodes. During a sentinel lymph node biopsy, your surgeon will remove the sentinel lymph nodes to evaluate for cancer.
The sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes that are typically affected by cancer, so if they don’t have any cancerous cells, your cancer is unlikely to have spread. When the laboratory analysis indicates that the sentinel lymph nodes contain cancerous cells, your surgeon may remove more lymph nodes to evaluate further.
Who is a candidate for a sentinel lymph node biopsy for lung cancer?
Your doctor may recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy if he or she suspects your non-small cell lung cancer has spread into the lymph nodes.
What are the benefits of having a sentinel lymph node biopsy?
A sentinel lymph node biopsy can help doctors determine the stage of lung cancer you are in as well as evaluate the risk that the cancerous cells have spread to other organs. The surgery can also help patients avoid more risky lymph node removal procedures that can lead to more serious complications.
What are the risks associated with a sentinel lymph node biopsy for lung cancer?
Although a sentinel node biopsy for lung cancer is typically a very safe procedure, complications can arise. Complications could include:
- Bruising at the biopsy site
- Infection at the incision site
- Allergic reaction to dyes used in the biopsy
What to expect during a sentinel lymph node biopsy for lung cancer
Sentinel lymph node biopsies may be done as an outpatient procedure or may require a hospital stay. The procedure is typically performed at the same time the lung cancer tumor is being removed.
During a sentinel lymph node biopsy for lung cancer, your surgeon will inject a radioactive substance and/or a blue dye near the lung cancer tumor to locate the sentinel lymph nodes. When located, your surgeon will make an incision and remove the sentinel node.
The sentinel node will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. If cancer is detected, your doctor may remove more lymph nodes.
Recovery from a sentinel lymph node biopsy for lung cancer
After a sentinel lymph node biopsy, you will be monitored for potential complications that may arise after the procedure. Many patients will go home the same day. If further procedures are required, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
If the lung cancer tumor was removed at the same time as the sentinel lymph node biopsy, you may need to stay in the hospital longer. Your doctor will outline a recovery process for your case before the procedure.