When it comes to surgery for breast cancer, we need not only to find out about the cancer in the breast, but also to check the lymph nodes in the armpit for potential spread by the breast cancer. Most patients present with early-stage node-negative breast cancer. This means that at the time of diagnosis the cancer has not spread to the neighbouring lymph nodes (glands) in the armpit.
In patients where there is no proof of spread to the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis, Mr Charalampoudis will perform a technique called sentinel node biopsy during surgery to remove the cancer. Your breast will be injected with a special fluid called Technetium-99 on the day of surgery. This fluid travels up the armpit nodes and Mr Charalampoudis will use a special probe whilst you are asleep in theatres to detect the sentinel nodes and send them for testing. If the nodes come back clear, no further intervention is required. If the nodes show cancer spread, further treatment to the armpit may be required, either during the same or subsequent surgery. Sometimes, Mr Charalampoudis will also inject blue dye to facilitate detection of the sentinel nodes.
Mr Charalampoudis will discuss the results of the sentinel node biopsy in clinic and will advise whether any further treatment is required. This can be more surgery or some radiotherapy to the armpit.