Skin cancer sometimes spreads to other areas of the body, often the lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes are located throughout your body and work to fight infection and filter out toxins from the bloodstream but sometimes cancer cells begin growing in the lymph nodes.
When skin cancer is diagnosed, your doctor may recommend testing to determine whether your lymph nodes are affected . This is done through a biopsy or diagnostic tools such as a CT scan. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, your doctor may recommend a lymph node dissection.
During a lymph node dissection, your doctor removes the lymph nodes closest to the primary cancer site – for example, if skin cancer is detected on your arm, the lymph nodes in your armpit on the side of your body the cancer is found will be removed. Lymph nodes are not removed individually, instead an area of tissue surrounding the lymph nodes is removed. Once removed, a pathologist examines the tissue, looks for cancer cells and...
When melanoma has reached Stage III , it frequently means that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes closest to the original cancer site. In Stage IV, many of the body’s lymph nodes are affected. When skin cancer is detected, doctors examine the closest lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread. If so, they may need to be removed.
Depending on the spread of cancer, surgery to remove lymph nodes , lymphadenectomy, can be quite extensive and involve a hospital stay of up to 5 days and a recovery of weeks. And, the larger the incision to remove the lymph nodes, the greater the chance for infection. Removing all of the lymph nodes in the groin area, for example, can require an incision of 12 inches, going from the hip to the thigh. For some, getting back to normal activities doesn’t happen for 6 weeks or more.
Minimally Invasive Procedures
A few doctors are using a minimally invasive procedure to remove lymph nodes in the groin area. Instead of one long incisio...
How long surgery takes
Surgery takes about an hour. The process of being admitted and prepared for surgery will vary from place to place. The amount of time you spend in the recovery room, waking up and getting to the point that you're ready to go home, will vary from woman to woman.
Most surgeons make a two–to–three–inch incision in the skin crease under your arm.
General anesthesia is used. Most commonly, the lower two levels of the three levels of axillary nodes will be removed. Occasionally, a surgeon will take one or two nodes from the top level, as an extra precaution. If you have a modified radical mastectomy, the lymph node dissection usually occurs in the same operation. If you have a lumpectomy, the lymph node dissection may occur at the same time or in a later operation. Once the surgeon removes the nodes, a pathologist will examine them carefully for signs of cancer. It may take days before the pathology report is available.
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