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Sentinel lymph node biopsy in patients with melanoma and breast cancer

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Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SNLB) is a new method for staging regional node fields in patients with cancers that have a propensity to metastasise to lymph nodes. The majority of early experience has been obtained in patients with melanoma and breast cancer.

The technique requires the close cooperation of nuclear medicine physicians, surgical oncologists and histopathologists to achieve the desired accuracy. It involves: (i) identification of all lymph nodes that directly drain a primary tumour site (the sentinel nodes) by the use of pre-operative lymphoscintigraphy, (ii) selective excision of these nodes by the surgeon, guided by pre-operative blue dye injection and a gamma detecting probe intra-operatively and (iii) careful histological examination of the sentinel nodes by the histopathologist using serial sections and immunohistochemical stains.

If the nodes are normal it can be inferred with a high degree of accuracy that all nodes in the node field are normal. This means that radical dissections of draining node fields can be avoided in patients with normal lymph nodes.

A further advantage of lyamphatic mapping is that drainage to sentinel nodes in unusual locations is identified, leading to more accurate nodal staging than could be achieved with routine dissection of the closest node field. (Intern Med J 2001; 31: 547–553)
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Keywords: breast cancer; melanoma; sentinel lymph node biopsy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-12-01

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