How many lymph nodes need to be removed when cancer is found? Elizabeth Tracey reports


When someone has the skin cancer melanoma, a lymph node nearby, called a sentinel node, is frequently assessed to see if the cancer has spread. If cancer is found there also removal of all the lymph nodes in the area is frequently done. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, applauds a new study showing that most of the time, that may not be necessary.

Nelson: 823 folks randomized to the sentinel node biopsy alone. Eighty percent of them were free of progression or recurrence. The reason this is so important is if you go and complete the lymph node dissection the rate of lymphedema, that’s the obstruction to lymph flow, for instance out of the arm or the leg, which leads to a fat arm or leg, prone to infection. It’s really not a condition that anybody wants to have, was 34% if you had the completed lymph node dissection versus only 6% with the sentinel node biopsy.  :32

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.