This surgery is done to see if cancer has spread to a lymph node. Some lymph nodes are located near the surface of the body, while others are deep in the belly or around organs, such as the heart or liver. The surgery is also done to remove melanoma that has spread only to the lymph nodes and to prevent melanoma from spreading farther (metastasizing).
General anesthesia is usually used for the surgery. An incision is made in the skin over the lymph nodes to be removed. The type and depth of the incision varies depending upon the location of these lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are removed along with nearby lymphatic tissue and some underlying soft tissue.
Recovery depends on the extent of the surgery and the site where the lymph nodes were removed.
The surgery is done to remove lymph nodes that may have melanoma in them.
Wide local excision and lymph node removal may cure some melanomas that have spread to the nearby lymph nodes but no farther.1
Surgery to remove lymph nodes can cause many side effects. The risks include:
- Buildup of fluid at the site of surgery (seroma).
- Swelling of a limb affected by removal of the lymph nodes (lymphedema).
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in the surgical area.
- Breakdown (sloughing) of skin over the area.
- National Cancer Institute (2012). Melanoma Treatment PDQ—Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/melanoma/healthprofessional.
Current as of: July 26, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff (https://www.healthwise.org/specialpages/legal/abouthw/en)
Clinical Review Board (https://www.healthwise.org/mdreviewboard.aspx?lang=en)
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