Lymphadenectomy is surgery to remove lymph nodes. 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 abdomen or around organs,
such as the heart or liver. Lymphadenectomy 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 a
lymphadenectomy. 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.
Lymphadenectomy is done to remove lymph nodes that may have melanoma in them.
Wide local excision and lymphadenectomy 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 of lymphadenectomy include:
- Buildup of fluid at the site of surgery
- Swelling of a limb affected by
removal of the lymph nodes (lymphedema).
tingling, or pain in the surgical area.
- Breakdown (sloughing) of
skin over the area.
The decision to have a
lymphadenectomy is not simple. It depends on your age, the location and
thickness of the melanoma, results of the
sentinel node biopsy, and other possible treatments.
Discuss these issues with your doctor before deciding whether to
have a lymphadenectomy.
Not all lymph node enlargement means
involvement with melanoma. Other conditions that cause lymph node swelling,
such as acne or infection, could occur at the same time as the melanoma. Such
conditions should be ruled out before lymphadenectomy is done.
after surgery (lymphedema) can be prevented or controlled by use of
antibiotics, support stockings (also called compression stockings),
Lymphadenectomy usually is
not needed if melanoma has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Melanoma Treatment PDQ—Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/melanoma/healthprofessional.