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Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping for Gynecologic Cancer

UPMC Content 2

Your lymphatic system — the system responsible for carrying the white blood cells that fight infection — is a major route by which cancer cells can spread throughout your body.

At the Magee-Womens Gynecologic Cancer Program, we use sentinel lymph node (SLN) mapping to determine if cancer cells have spread to your lymph nodes.

A surgeon performs an SLN biopsy — a minimally invasive procedure — to remove the main (sentinel) lymph nodes to test for cancer.

What Can I Expect During a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy?

During your SLN biopsy, your surgeon:

  1. Injects dye near the tumor to identify the SLN (the main lymph node) where the cancer is likely to have spread first.
  2. Makes a small incision and removes the SLN for biopsy.
  3. Sends your SLN biopsy sample to a pathologist who examines it to determine if cancer is present.
If cancer cells are... Then you...
Not detected in the SLN, Will not need further surgery on the lymph nodes.
Detected in the SLN, May need a full axillary lymph node dissection. In some cases, removal of additional lymph nodes may not be necessary.