Breast Biopsy

sentinel-lymph-node-biopsy-los-angelesSurgery is a common method utilized to treat breast cancer and help patients resume living their lives. Many patients who receive a breast cancer diagnosis will undergo a breast biopsy (specifically, a sentinel lymph node biopsy) to determine whether cancer has spread beyond the breast. If you have questions about this or other procedures for treating breast cancer or reconstructing the breasts, please don’t hesitate to call the Breast Center of Excellence at (888) 316-4167.

Why Do Doctors Perform Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy?

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed to determine whether or not cancer has spread to the sentinel lymph nodes. Because many forms of cancer spread through the body’s lymphatic system, surgeons test the sentinel lymph nodes (first lymph nodes to which cancer is likely to spread from the breast) for cancer cells.

In general, doctors are most likely to find cancerous cells in the lymph nodes in the axilla, or armpit, beside the breast in question. When you visit the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence, our surgical oncologist, Dr. Leslie Memsic, will determine the best method of diagnosing and treating your particular case.

Undergoing Breast Biopsy

You will likely undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy, or breast cancer biopsy, during a mastectomy or lumpectomy to remove the primary tumor; however, the procedure can be performed separately as well. During sentinel lymph node biopsy, the surgeon will inject you with a blue radioactive dye near the tumor site. He or she will then use a radioactivity-detecting device to find the sentinel nodes.  After the nodes are found, your surgeon will create a half-inch incision and remove them for further assessment by a pathologist. Your doctors will use the breast biopsy results of the lymph node pathology report to make important decisions about your treatment plan.

Generally, sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed on an outpatient basis and lasts just 60-90 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Breast Biopsies

Q: What are lymph nodes?

A: Small round organs, lymph nodes filter and snare foreign particles and are essential to the proper function of the body’s immune system.

Q: What are some risks associated with a breast cancer biopsy?

A: While SLNB is widely regarded as a safe method of staging breast cancer, some risks of breast cancer biopsy include swelling, a buildup of lymph fluid, numbness and pain. Your doctor can provide you with medication to relieve your discomfort after surgery. In rare cases, patients may have negative reactions to the dye utilized during SLNB.

Q: How does sentinel lymph node biopsy compare to a traditional lymph node biopsy?

A: Because fewer lymph nodes are removed in SLNB as compared with traditional lymph node biopsy, the risk of side effects is lower.

Q: What are the advantages of undergoing a breast biopsy at La Peer?

A: Because the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence at La Peer Health Systems is an outpatient surgical facility, patients enjoy a reduced risk of infection and illness as compared to the risk at a traditional hospital. Further, patients undergo surgery with a team of medical professionals who works together regularly, a fact which reduces both surgery time and time under anesthesia.

Contact the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence

At the Breast Center of Excellence, our team of breast surgeons are experts in treating breast cancer and reconstructing the breasts after surgery. If you want to learn more about breast biopsy or the sentinel lymph node biopsy, contact us for a consultation.

Read our breast reconstruction FAQ.

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