You might hear some people saying having lymph node dissection (lymphadenectomy) done is unnecessary; however, there is no other way to do a biopsy of the lymph node while in the body or performing the biopsy than returning them into the body.

With the body having hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body, filtering the lymph fluid, cancer cells can transfer to different node areas in the body. If tests show that cancer cells are evident, the doctor will recommend removing the lymph node to perform the biopsy to determine if the tests are correct.

Removing the sentinel lymph nodes for biopsy can minimize how many of them will be removed. After removal, side effects may occur, but usually, your health care professional can manage them.

Lymph Nodes Purpose

Lymph nodes have an essential purpose in the health of the body, so removing them usually is a last resort, and the biopsy is only when necessary. The lymph nodes are part of the circulation system. They trap waste, cancer cells, and other debris in the system so they can be removed from the body. When overwhelmed with an infection, cancer, or other material, they will swell and become noticeable.

There are three circulatory systems in the body. The first one is the lymphatic system (it can trap and filter larger waste particles than the venous system), which removes waste. The second one is the venous system with the responsibility to remove debris from tissues. The Third one is the arterial system, which circulates blood throughout the body. All three have vital roles to play in the works of the body.

The Removal Process

Lymph nodes are removed during a surgical procedure. The procedure is an outpatient surgery that will vary in length due to the number of lymph nodes being removed and their locations. If the sentinel lymph nodes are going to be removed, it will be after a dye test is done to identify which ones they are. Sometimes the biopsies will be done while the person is still in surgery so that additional surgery can be done at the same time if the lymph nodes have cancer cells. Some of the side effects of lymph node removal include pain, discomfort, and swelling. The side effects may subside, but the swelling can come and go depending on how the lymph circulates throughout the body.

Staging The Cancer

Lymph node removal is necessary to determine the cancer stage. If there is no lymph node involvement, it is easier to treat cancer. If there is lymph node involvement, then that means cancer has spread from the original tumor, and further testing will be needed. These are the stages of the disease:

  • Stage I – Carcinoma in situ (CIS), an early stage of cancer when the cells have not invaded surrounding tissue
  • Stage II and Stage III – localized disease, the tumor is in one area of the body with lymph node involvement
  • Stage IV – cancer has spread to other organs or throughout the body

Different types of cancer have different criteria for the amount of lymph node involvement for it to be staged II or III.


Before having the lymph node removed and having lymphadenectomy performed, you may want to do research and get a second opinion. To minimize the number of lymph nodes that will need to be removed can be reduced by identifying the sentinel nodes and doing a biopsy on those.