How many lymph nodes are removed during an axillary dissection?

Scott Weissman
Clinical Genetics
The number of lymph nodes removed during an axillary dissection varies greatly. There is no set standard, and it depends on how much of the lymph system is being removed, which is sometimes referred to as a level I, level II or level III, with more being taken at each level. Quite often, physicians use a technique called sentinel node biopsy to sample a few lymph nodes closest to the cancer. If there is cancer in these nodes, they will often remove more, but if no cancer is found, no additional lymph nodes are removed. This technique can minimize the chance of developing lymphedema (swelling of the arm).

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