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Sentinel Lymph Node Breast Biopsy


  • A sentinel (SEN-tin-el) lymph node breast biopsy is also called a SLN breast biopsy. This procedure is done to check if breast cancer has spread. In breast cancer, many abnormal cells collect in the breast where they form the original, or primary, tumor. Abnormal cells may break away from this tumor and be carried to other parts of the body, which is called metastasis. These cells may pass through lymph vessels and lodge in the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are groups of lymph tissue that contain lymph fluid. Lymph fluid contains lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell (WBC), that helps fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes may be found in your axilla (armpits), neck, along the sides of your breast bone, below your collarbone, and groin.
  • With a SLN breast biopsy, caregivers check and remove sentinel lymph nodes. The sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes where cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. A weak radioactive substance, a blue dye, or a combination of these is used to locate sentinel lymph nodes. The dye stains the lymph tissue a bright blue so it can be seen. When staining is present, caregivers will remove one or more lymph nodes and send them to a lab for tests. An SLN breast biopsy may also be able to tell how much the breast cancer has spread.



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


Eat healthy foods from all of the food groups including fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, meat, and fish. Ask your caregiver how many servings of fats, oils, and sweets should be included in your diet. Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy.

Do not smoke:

If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.

Manage your stress:

Stress may slow healing and lead to illness. Learn ways to control stress, such as relaxation, deep breathing, and music. Talk to someone about things that upset you.

Wound care:

When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the incision with soap and water. Afterwards, put on clean, new bandages. Change your bandages any time they get wet or dirty. Ask your caregivers for more information about wound care.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up).
  • Your bandages become soaked with blood.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure, condition, or care.


  • You feel something is bulging out from your incision.
  • You have clear or bloody discharge coming from your incision.
  • You have chest pain that becomes worse even after taking pain medicines.
  • You have pus or a foul-smelling odor coming from your incision.
  • You have trouble moving your arm.
  • Your arm feels numb, swells up, or is very painful.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.