Friday, September 19, 2008

Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping

One of the first questions any breast cancer patient will ask after surgery is "was there any lymph node involvement?" Fortunately, for me there was not. That means in my case that cancer cells were only involved in the breast tissue and did not escape to any other parts of my body through the lymph system.

The day before surgery I went to the Nuclear Medicine department for a sentinel node mapping test. The first thing a surgeon does when he starts surgery is look for the sentinel node (the first node of the chain), takes it out and sends it to pathology to see if the lymph node has cancer cells in it. I had one sentinel node on one side and 2 on the other. In order for the surgeon to find that node a test is done in the Nuclear Medicine department that localizes that node. A radioisotope called technetium 99m sulfur colloid is injected in three different spots in each breast. The description the doctor used was "you may feel a burning sensation." Ok, I can handle that. That did not sound that bad. WRONG! Imagine a red hot poker being stabbed into your breast......yep, that is exactly how it felt, not gonna lie, it hurt like hell. I thought I was going to go through the roof. Once the first injection went in and you knew how it felt, there was the anticipation of how 5 others were going to feel. Fortunately, the pain lasted less than 2 minutes,and the rest of the test was just lying under their machine waiting for the sentinel node to pick up the radioisotope which could be seen on their films. They then X'd the spot with marker so the surgeon knew exactly where it was.

Lymph node involvement and the pathology of your tumor will determine what types of treatment options are available for you. I meet with the oncologist on Monday to go over the details of what is to come next.

2 comments:

Debbie said...

Gail, what a great explaination of that process you did. I have several friends that have gone through this process and never have talked about it. You blog is wonderful and even if I don't comment, I check it daily, and am keeping you in my prayers.Love you.

Kim said...

Gail,
Thank you so much for sharing all this information. It really is wonderful to know all this stuff that you are going through. Please keep blogging!
Love ya,
Kim