A radiographer's perspective of sentinel lymph node biopsy
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KeywordsBreast Cancer Lymph Node Breast Cancer Patient Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Lymph Node Status
Axillary lymph node clearance during surgery for breast cancer provides control of local disease within the axilla and staging of axillary lymph nodes. However, the procedure carries a significant morbidity such as seroma formation, infection, parathesia-reduced shoulder movements, lymphoedema and longer in-patient stay. As there are a significant number of patients presenting with early stage breast cancer (60% of patients have disease free axillary nodes), routine axillary lymph node clearance exposes many patients to unnecessary surgery.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy has evolved as a technique to successfully identify the first draining lymph node to accurately predict axillary lymph node status. It is a minimally invasive procedure which, after an initial learning curve, is quick and easy to perform. At the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, we are now involved in a national trial for this procedure. This is a review of the technique and imaging modalities involved. If shown to be a successful and reliable technique, sentinel lymph node biopsy will contribute significantly to the management of breast cancer patients.