Why are lymph nodes examined in breast cancer patients?


Most cancers go to lymph nodes before they spread elsewhere. So, for breast cancer, usually the first lymph nodes are in the armpit, and when you operate for breast cancer, you have to sample some of those armpit lymph nodes to see if the cancer's spread. That gives you the full stage of the cancer, and then that stage helps drive what type of treatment you're going to do.

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During both lumpectomy and mastectomy, axillary (underarm) lymph nodes are generally removed and examined. Enlarged nodes under the arm may or may not contain cancer. Microscopic examination is required to document spread to lymph nodes. An increased number of involved lymph nodes increases the probability of local recurrence. 

Continue Learning about Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Beyond a breast exam or mammogram, there are various tests and methods for doctors to diagnose and track progress of breast cancer. The process involves imaging and lab tests, including ultrasounds, MRIs, a breast biopsy and even ...

bones scans to locate tumors and stage the cancer. A medical oncologist or breast surgeon help explain a breast cancer diagnosis and provide treatment options. Learn more about diagnosing breast cancer with expert advice from Sharecare.

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