An axillary lymph node dissection is done to see if breast
cancer has spread to any of the lymph nodes that drain the breast area. Lymph
nodes move and filter fluids and other materials, such as cancer cells,
between body tissues and the bloodstream. Because of this, cancer is often
found in lymph nodes. Many of the lymph nodes in the breast area are in the
armpit. Your doctor will remove a number of lymph nodes and have them tested
for cancer. If cancer is found, you may need more tests and treatment.
After the surgery, you may go home the
same day. Or you may need to spend the night at the hospital. You will probably be able to go
back to work or your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. This depends on the type
of work you do and any other treatment you may need.
After your lymph nodes
are removed, you will be at greater risk for swelling in your arm. This is
called lymphedema. You will have to take good care of your affected arm. Wear
loose sleeves and bracelets. Don't carry heavy things with that arm. Your
doctor or physiotherapist can teach you arm exercises. Doing these can help you move
your arm as you always have.
This surgery may be done at the
same time as other breast surgeries. If this is the case, how you prepare may
You may feel sad or depressed after a dissection
and have concerns about your body image and sexuality. This is common. Seek out
family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to
make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments,
and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know
your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be
stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed
Enter Z413 in the search box to learn more about "Axillary Lymph Node Dissection: Before Your Surgery."
Current as of:
July 29, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Laura S. Dominici, MD - General Surgery,
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