FROM OUR EXPERTS
The lymph nodes reveal information about outlook and they help doctors determine the best types of treatment against the cancer. Your lymph nodes act as filters for your body's lymphatic drainage system. That's why the lymph nodes are likely to "catch" or filter out cancer cells that might be floating in the fluid that drains away from the cancerous area of the breast.
The surgeon will inject a blue dye and a radioactive substance (called a tracer) into the tumor or the skin over the tumor. The first lymph nodes that turn blue and pick up the tracer are called the sentinel (meaning "first") lymph nodes. The lymph node or nodes are then removed and sent to the pathologist, who looks to see if they contain any cancer cells. If no cancer cells are found, then no additional lymph node surgery is done.
If cancer cells are found in the nodes, then more underarm lymph nodes usually need to be removed. This is called an axillary (the armpit area) lymph node dissection (removal). There are thr...
See All of Keri's Breast Cancer Comic Strips
More things to look for on your pathology report - my last post on pathology reports covered histology, margins and grade. Other important things a pathologist will consider:
Size of the Breast Cancer (Measured in cm)
This is somewhat an approximation of the size in diameter of a three dimensional tumor - looking for the widest point. Breast cancer can sometimes be shaped oddly - think of a bow turned on itself in which case it would look like two separate focuses of cancer - the skillful pathologist will comment on the actual size and whether the cancer is one site "focus" or many sites (multifocal). The smaller the size of the cancer, the better.
Lymph Nodes (Sentinel and Other)
The most important prognostic feature of breast cancer is still felt to be the involvement of lymph nodes with cancer - the # of involved lymph nodes and some features of lymph node involvement being key.
The sentinel lymph node(s) is/are the "draining" lymph nodes from th...
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