How serious is lymph node cancer?
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands throughout the human body. Cancer that originates in one part of the body might spread to other parts of the body as well.
It spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. In such cases, a doctor usually recommends removing the lymph nodes during the surgery to remove the originating tumor.
As lymph nodes are responsible for draining lymph fluid, its removal might lead to some side effects to the patients after the surgery. A breast cancer survival rate is better when the cancer is only in the breast, and the lymph nodes are not affected.
The staging of cancer depends on how much cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
In The Article
Lymph Node Removal & Lymphedema
The swelling, caused by an unusual collection of too much fluid is called as lymphedema. Axillary lymph nodes are also called as armpit (a hollow under the arm at the shoulder) lymph nodes.
They are usually the first set of lymph nodes where breast cancer will spread. The number of axillary lymph nodes varies from one person to other. It ranges from 5 nodes to more than 30.
When cancer cells spread to the axillary lymph nodes, the node looks enlarged. In these situations, doctors’ advice to remove the lymph nodes.
But removing the axillary lymph nodes increases the risk of developing lymphedema.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SNB) For Early Stage Breast Cancer
- This node would be the first one to show the indication of breast cancer when the cancer cells start spreading to other parts of the body from the breast.
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer is not recommended for all the patients.
There are certain guidelines used to decide on this
- Women with the following conditions are recommended to undergo SNB:
- With operable breast cancer (cancer that can be treated with surgery) and multicentric tumours
- With ductal carcinoma in situ, where the patient will undergo mastectomy (the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely)
- Who earlier underwent breast or axillary surgery OR
- Who received preoperative systemic therapy
- Women with the following conditions are not recommended to undergo SNB:
- With large or locally advanced invasive breast cancer (where cancer has spread to the surrounding tissue or the lymph nodes) with tumour size of T3 or T4
- With inflammatory breast cancer (where the breast often looks swollen and red or inflamed)
- Ductal carcinoma in situ – DCIS – non-invasive cancer where unusual cells are found in the lining of the breast milk duct (when breast-conserving surgery is planned) OR
- Pregnant women
Surgical Removal Of Underarm Lymph Nodes In Breast Cancer
When the patient has invasive breast cancer, doctors usually remove some of the lymph nodes under the arm during lumpectomy or mastectomy. Examining the lymph nodes helps the doctors to find out the extent of cancer.
Cancer in the lymph nodes leads to an increased risk of having cancer cells spread to other parts of the body