After you have been through something such as a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, it is often the case that your doctor will want to have a further look into your lymph nodes. The reason why your doctor may wish to examine your lymph nodes is to identify whether or not the cancer cells in your body have spread elsewhere, or are actively being spread. If you do happen to get have  lumpectomy with lymph node biopsy, or indeed a mastectomy with lymph node biopsy, then it is perfectly natural to be concerned about the findings. In the hope of putting you at ease a little, here is what the doctor is doing and why they are doing it.

The Relationship Between Cancer and the Lymph System

Because we know so much about breast cancer following many years of in-depth analysis, we can now predict exactly what the cancer cells are going to do once they start to grow. Usually the original cancer cells form in a tumor, but they then break out from that structure and attach themselves to the lymph nodes in the breast. The worry of cancer getting into the lymph nodes is that from there they are able to spread to other areas of the body. Your doctor will take a biopsy of lymph nodes, especially the sentinel node, to examine whether or not there are any cancer cells there. Your doctor will dissect the nodes to examine them.

Lymph Node Biopsies Are Common, But Not Always Done

In most cases the doctor will wish to take out some lymph nodes in order to examine them and to double check that there is no evidence of cancer cell spread. With this being said, many doctors will not perform this if hey see absolutely no evidence of cancer having spread to the lymph nodes. If you have had lymph nodes taken then don’t over panic, this could easily be just a check for safety’s sake rather than a clear indication that something is wrong.

If The Cancer Has Spread…

If the cancer has spread then you will be called back in to discuss options. In the past the lymph nodes would be fully removed yet currently the first treatment for those who have early stage breast cancer will be radiation to the underarm, in the hope of killing off any remaining cancer cells. If this doesn’t work then there will be a full dissection and the axillary nodes will be removed.

Ahead of your results it will be important to try and stay calm and stay positive. The best advice would be to avoid looking for too many answers online or from other’s experiences. The wait won’t be enjoyable of course, but you should try to remain patient until you are absolutely sure of what the doctor has found when looking through the results of your biopsy. Any further questions please feel free to add them in the comments section.