Axillary node clearance

Breast cancer starts in the breast but if it is left untreated, it can spread to the rest of the body. We aim to detect and treat breast cancer before it has spread elsewhere. Usually, if breast cancer is going to spread, it goes to the lymph nodes in the armpit (axilla) before moving to the rest of the body.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer at Breast Care Leicester , we would normally carry out an ultrasound scan of the lymph nodes in your armpit to detect any large cancer deposits. If this shows no involvement, we would advise a sentinel lymph node biopsy at the same time as your breast surgery. If however, there are suspicious nodes visible on ultrasound, the Consultant Radiologist will normally carry out a needle biopsy of a suspicious node. If the pathologist reports the presence of breast cancer cells within the node, we would usually advise axillary node clearance at the same time as your breast cancer surgery .
Axillary node clearance is a procedure in which the Consultant Surgeon clears all of the fat and lymph nodes from an anatomically-defined area in the armpit (axilla). This tissue is sent for analysis by the pathologist. This area contains widely variable numbers of lymph nodes in different people - typically between 10 and 30. After axillary lymph node clearance, you may well have a drain for a few days after surgery. This will not delay your discharge and our nurses will advise you how to look after it and when it will need to be removed.
When you return to Breast Care Leicester for your post-operative results appointment, the pathologist will have reported the number of lymph nodes removed and the number of nodes with breast cancer deposits within them. This information is useful to the oncologists in deciding whether you will need chemotherapy and radiotherapy as part of your treatment.

Axillary lymph node clearance is sometimes advised after a sentinel lymph node biopsy has shown unexpected breast cancer deposits in the axillary lymph nodes. Often, there will be a choice between axilary lymph node clearance or axillary radiotherapy in this situation but Breast Care Leicester will advise you as to the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Axillary lymph node clearance is an operation which can have short- and long-term complications which include lymphoedema (fluid retention and arm swelling); shoulder stiffness; bleeding; haematoma; seroma; pain; numbness/altered sensation; nerve or blood vessel injury and scarring. We would advise regular exercises after your operation to maintain your range of shoulder movement.
Breast Care Leicester: level 2 axillary node clearance
Therapeutic mammoplasty
Wide local excision
Sentinel lymph node biopsy
Breast reconstruction