One of the primary ways that skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body is through the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are especially vulnerable because their job is to protect the body from bacteria. They fight against the diseased fluid that leaks from a tumor. If this cancerous fluid builds up in the lymph nodes, the cancer can spread.
At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, we offer the most highly specialized procedures to determine if cancer is affecting the lymph nodes. Our surgical oncologists have many years of training and expertise in performing these procedures.
Using a multidisciplinary approach, we consult with specialists in a wide range of fields to determine the most effective procedure for you. We base our practice on the most current research. We also offer you access to cutting edge cancer clinical trials whenever available.
We offer our patients the most highly specialized procedures for skin cancer. These include:
The first lymph node that cancerous fluid can attack is called the sentinel lymph node. A sentinel lymph node biopsy determines whether cancer has spread to the sentinel lymph node. If the sentinel lymph node is cancerous, it is likely that other lymph nodes are too.
To perform the procedure, your surgical oncologist injects the tumor with radioactive dye. The dye identifies the sentinel lymph node and your surgical oncologist can surgically remove it. Then, a pathologist will inspect the lymph node carefully under a microscope to identify any signs of cancer.
Lymph Node Dissections
If your surgical oncologist determines that cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, you will need to have more lymph nodes removed. This procedure is called a lymph node dissection. The following are two types of specialized lymph node dissections we use for skin cancers or certain extremity soft tissue sarcomas:
- Axillary lymph node dissection – A surgical procedure that removes tissue containing a group of affected lymph nodes from under the arm.
- Inguinal-femoral lymph node dissection – A surgical procedure that removes tissue containing a group of affected lymph nodes from the groin area.
Recovering From Skin Cancer Procedures
Your surgical oncologist will discuss with you the specifics of your procedure and what you can expect afterwards. Some side effects you may experience include:
- Pain or swelling at the procedure site
- Difficulty moving the arm or leg affected by the procedure
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