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Sentinal node biopsy question



Had my lumpectomy yesterday with Sentinal Node Biopsy. Post op my surgeon said she removed three nodes. When I asked, "Why three" She replied, "Because three lit up."

Then she was gone before I could ask a follow up, unto the next surgery.

Is lighting up a bad thing? Or do they usually remove three?

Nothing like a vague response to pump up the anxiety!

Thank you in advance for your response!


  • weninwi
    weninwi Member Posts: 762
    edited May 2023


    I think "lit up" means those three sentinel nodes had adequate uptake of whatever substance they injected into your lymph system so the surgeon could find and removed them with some precision. I think they inject a radio isotope, but I'm not sure. The procedure I had involved using a very small, fine needle to inject the substance at few spots around margin of my nipple the day before surgery, with the intent that it would travel to my sentinel nodes. My surgeon told me before surgery that she intended to take 3 nodes, but only one node "lit up" so that is all she took. Others on BCO can probably answer your question better.

  • yippeekiyaymf
    yippeekiyaymf Member Posts: 25

    Ask next time you have a chance but the following is my understanding from when i asked: Similar to Weninwi they injected me and wactched which lymph nodes it travelled and drained too. They then removed however many that was. For me it was three and for you it sounds like it was also 3 and for her it was 1. They then do pathology on them and go from there.

  • salamandra
    salamandra Member Posts: 745

    I think that is a pretty typical number of sentinel nodes to find and biopsy. That's how many I had done. I think 'lit up' is the expected thing (iirc, they inject something before the procedure specifically meant to light up the sentinel nodes) and it would be a problem if nothing lit up. Everything you described sounds typical and should not add to your anxiety. But it sucks when we don't get the information that would help so much!

  • janehicks
    janehicks Member Posts: 48

    Thank you both for your responses! Really helped me get through the weekend. All this waiting, so much anxiety! Does one ever get used to it?

    My best to you both!