Axillary lymph node dissection helps to determine the stage of the breast cancer, which in turn helps to inform treatment choices. It is performed either after a lumpectomy or at the same time as a lumpectomy (segmental mastectomy or breast-sparing surgery). In this procedure, some of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed and analyzed to determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and, if so, how many lymph nodes contain cancer.
Because more lymph nodes are removed than in a sentinel lymph node biopsy, there is a greater risk for lymphedema. The treatment of lymphedema is limited. Patients who have it must be observant, because lymphedema makes them more prone to infection in the involved arm, and with each infection lymphatic channels can be injured, making the condition worse.
The best approaches to lymphedema involve steps to prevent it, as well as active physical therapy treatment. Our dedicated team of physical therapists offers therapy, exercises, support garments and activities to treat and avoid lymphedema, as well as a list of activities to stay away from to prevent injury and improve healing.