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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy


Using this procedure the surgeon removes one or more axillary lymph nodes from the underarm area to determine if breast cancer has spread. If cancer has spread, the first nodes it will have spread to are called sentinel nodes.


To help the surgeon locate sentinel nodes, the patient may receive radioactive tracer fluid and blue dye injections, or the patient may receive the blue dye only.

Radioactive Tracer Option

If radioactive tracer fluid is administered, the patient will be scheduled for an appointment in the Nuclear Medicine department either the evening before or the morning of the surgery. The radioactive fluid is injected into the tissue around the tumor. This fluid passes through the lymphatic system and is absorbed into sentinel nodes.

Blue Dye

The blue dye is administered just prior to the lymph node biopsy. The patient is anesthetized and positioned, and the dye is injected into the tissue around the tumor. The dye passes through the lymphatic system, coloring sentinel nodes.

Locating Sentinel Nodes

If a radioactive tracer was injected, the surgeon uses an instrument to scan the underarm for traces of radioactivity. The surgeon then creates a small incision in the skin to visually confirm the presence of blue dye. If the radioactive tracer was not injected, the surgeon will use visual confirmation only.