Caring for Yourself After Your Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Caring for Yourself After Your Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

For people with certain cancers — mainly breast and melanoma — an initial determination may not be the final step in getting a complete diagnosis. Frequently, a sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed to determine whether it has spread.

As an experienced complex general surgical oncologist in private practice in Santa Monica, California, Dr. Trevan Fischer uses state-of-the-art skills and procedures to help people with breast and skin cancer as well as soft tissue sarcomas. That includes performing sentinel lymph node biopsies. He also works on clinical trials at the Saint John's Cancer Institute, which allows him to stay up-to-date on the latest findings and techniques for battling cancer.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is conducted after a cancer diagnosis has been made. It determines if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. The procedure helps stage the cancer to create an appropriate treatment plan.

To perform the biopsy, Dr. Fischer injects a special tracer substance near the tumor and then uses a device to find the lymph nodes that would be the first lymph nodes cancer cells would go to if they spread. Then, they are removed through a small incision and evaluated by a pathologist to see if they contain cancer cells.


After the procedure, the incision may feel tender and sore. There may also be tingling and numbness as the nerves heal. These sensations may come and go and last anywhere from a week to several months or more. 

As the healing continues, scar tissue may develop along the incision. It will be hard but will soften over time.


Take over-the-counter pain medications to help with soreness. In rare cases, prescription pain medication may be prescribed.

Showering is permissible 24 hours after the procedure. Returning to most regular activities is usually fine the day following the biopsy, though strenuous exercise, like jogging and lifting weights, should first be cleared by our team.

For a time, there may be pain or stiffness in the arm or leg of the affected side where the lymph nodes were removed. However, it should be discussed with our team if it continues past the six-week mark.

Getting a cancer diagnosis and having a sentinel lymph node biopsy can be stressful and cause many emotions. Be sure to practice self-care and seek professional mental health help if needed. 

Cancer can be overwhelming, but being proactive is the first step. Dr. Fischer can help. Click to book an appointment or call the office and speak to our friendly staff today at 310-807-2688.

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