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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

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

A SLN is usually the lymph node closest to a tumor. 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 cancer has spread to other places in your body. This information can help your healthcare provider decide on treatment you may need.

How do I prepare for a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

What will happen during a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

What will happen after a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

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 or leg closest to the biopsy site may be sore. This should get better within 48 to 72 hours.

What are the risks of a sentinel lymph node biopsy?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may develop a condition called lymphedema. Lymphedema is tissue swelling in the body part nearest to where the SLN was removed. You may have long-term pain or discomfort in this area. Your skin in this area may be permanently thick or hard. Your nerves may be damaged during your procedure. This may cause numbness or tingling where the SLN was removed. It may also cause trouble moving the body part closest to the SLN. 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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