One of the most important concerns in breast cancer is the spread (metastasis) of the cancer to other organs. In these patients, the sentinel lymph node scintigraphy, a diagnostic test developed for the purpose of identifying lymph node involvement, is an imaging method having superior diagnosis and monitoring capabilities.
It is commonly accepted that the sentinel lymph node is the first lymph gland reached when cancer cells spread from the primary tumor. Because cancer cells multiply through this lymph node, the extent to which cancerous cells have invaded it provides important information about the stage of the disease and assists in deciding upon subsequent treatment.
After the nuclear medicine specialist has identified the sentinel lymph node through the use of the mapping technique, all the surgeon has to do is remove it surgically.
The sentinel lymph gland biopsy is performed by injecting a radioactive tracer into the area. It reaches the area under the armpit or the sentinel lymph node nearby after about five to seven minutes. There may be more than one sentinel lymph node, but the average is two. By removing these lymph nodes, we can assess the potential for the metastasis of the tumor cells. If tumor cells are not found, the procedure is terminated. It may be thought that this kind of result means that the remaining lymph nodes to not have to be removed. However, finding cancer cells in the “first stop” lymph nodes requires the removal of additional lymph nodes.