Lymph Node Surgery
This can be found as a lump you and your doctor can feel, or maybe found as tiny deposits of tumour as is found in sentinel lymph node biopsy. The main areas for nodes are in the neck, the armpit and the groin. There are also lymph nodes inside the body. If a lump can be felt, diagnosis is made by sampling cells with a needle test (fine needle aspiration – FNA) or by removing one of the nodes to check it in detail. If tumour cells are found in the lymph nodes you will have a scan to look at the whole body, and plans will be made to remove all the remaining glands in the area.
This is a significant operation with consequences your surgeon will explain. You will need to stay in hospital for a number of days following surgery to make sure you are recovering well. There will be a tube (drain) under the skin to draw off the excess fluid that builds up in the area. This can be needed for up to two weeks. In some hospitals patients can go home with a drain in place having been taught how to look after it. Almost half of patients will get swelling of the limbs following this surgery, and for some it is long lasting (lymphoedema). Whilst lymphodema cannot currently be cured, it can be managed. There are many options for help and support available.
Post surgery care
Your surgeons and nurses will explain how to care for your wound after surgery, what rest you need, and when to have stitches removed if necessary. You can improve your outcome by following some simple advice:
• Follow all the instructions carefully, and ask if you are not sure.
• Avoid smoking as it can stop wounds healing properly.
• Listen to your body – you will know if you are doing too much and things become painful or swell.
• If in doubt seek advice early.
Skin anatomy and types of skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma
Surgery and reconstruction