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Breast Cancer Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

What do I need to know about a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB)?

A sentinel lymph node (SLN) is usually the lymph node closest to the breast tumor. It is usually found in the armpit, or along the sternum (breastbone) or collarbone. A biopsy is a procedure used to find and remove a SLN. During the biopsy, the SLN will be tested for cancer cells. If the test is positive, it may mean that breast cancer has spread outside of your breast. This information can help your healthcare provider decide what other treatments you need.

How do I prepare for a SLNB?

What will happen during a SLNB?

What will happen after a SLNB?

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may be able to go home after you are awake and your pain is controlled. Your urine or bowel movement may be blue for 24 to 48 hours after your procedure. This is caused by the blue contrast liquid given to you during the procedure. You may have bruising or swelling at the biopsy site. This is normal and expected. The arm closest to the biopsy site may be sore. This should get better within 48 to 72 hours.

What are the risks of a SLNB?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may develop a condition called lymphedema. Lymphedema is tissue swelling in your arm nearest to where the SLN was removed. You may have long-term pain or discomfort in your arm. Your skin in the arm may be permanently thick or hard. Your nerves may be damaged during your procedure. This may cause numbness or tingling in your arm. It may also cause difficulty moving your arm. You may have an allergic reaction to the contrast liquid. This may require medicine or other treatments.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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