Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Lymph Node Removal (Lymphadenectomy) for Melanoma
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.
What To Expect After Surgery
Recovery depends on the extent of the surgery and the site where the lymph nodes were removed.
How Well It Works
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 (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.
What To Think About
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.
Lymphadenectomy usually is not needed if melanoma has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Last Revised: October 12, 2012
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