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What happens during sentinel node biopsy?

Sentinel node biopsies are often performed at the same time a tumour is removed under general anaesthetic. The length of your procedure will be based on the extent of surgery being performed along with the biopsy.

To locate the closest sentinel node to your tumour your surgeon will inject a radioactive solution or blue dye to identify the first area where the tumour might drain. They will remove the sentinel node and send it for further analysis in a laboratory.

If cancer is found in the node, other lymph nodes may be removed either during the biopsy procedure or as followup surgery. You may also need additional radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Be sure and discuss any concerns you have with your surgeon.

If no cancer is found in the node it means the cancer has not spread to your lymph system.

Going home after sentinel node biopsy

Your stay in hospital will depend on the result of your biopsy as well as the level of surgery performed during your visit. If only the biopsy is done you will probably be able to go home the day of the procedure. If a sentinel node biopsy  is performed as part of another procedure , you may need a hospital stay. Be sure and discuss your own case with your consultant. Please arrange for someone to drive you home as you will not be allowed drive for the first 24-48 hours.

You may need to take pain relief medication such as Paracetamol for the first few days. Be sure and discuss any return to normal activities or work with your consultant.

With any surgery there could be complications including:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Infection

Specific complications of sentinel node biopsy:

  • Allergy to dye
  • Swelling and fluid buildup (lymphedema)
  • Blue staining at the wound site
  • Blue or green coloured urine (for a few days after surgery).
Find your nearest hospital that provides this test

3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870
Overall rating Good

4 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AF

01223 370919
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Cardiff and Vale  

Cardiff Bay Hospital, Dunleavey Drive, Cardiff, CF11 0SN

02920 836700

Hatherley Lane, Cheltenham, GL51 6SY

01242 246 500
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Stirling Road, Guildford, GU2 7RF

01483 555805
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2 Leighton Street, Leeds, LS1 3EB

01133 882 067
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Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, LE5 1HY

0116 2769 401
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Newcastle upon Tyne  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1JP

0191 281 6131
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Beech Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7RP

01865 307777
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Tunbridge Wells  

Kingswood Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 4UL

01892 531111
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The Chase, Old Milverton Lane, Leamington Spa, CV32 6RW

01926 436351
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Winchester Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, SO53 2DW

02380 266 377
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Wood Road, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, WV6 8LE

01902 754 177
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