Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) for vulval cancer
An SLNB is a small operation done under a general or regional (spinal) anaesthetic. It can help your doctors plan the best treatment for you.
This test checks lymph nodes near the vulva for signs of cancer. It can find small amounts of cancer that cannot be felt as swelling or seen on a scan.
Lymph nodes are part of the immune system and they help protect us from infection and disease. Sometimes, vulval cancer can spread through the lymph nodes. The sentinel nodes are the first lymph nodes that fluid drains to from the vulva. If the vulval cancer has spread to nearby nodes, these sentinel nodes are most likely to be affected.
A sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is a small operation to find the sentinel lymph nodes and remove them. It is done under a general or regional (spinal) anaesthetic. It is usually at the same time as an operation to remove the cancer.
Before the SLNB, you usually have a scan to show the sentinel lymph nodes. Your scan may be the day before or the same day as the SLNB.
For the scan, you undress from the waist down. You then lie down on your back. The doctor uses local anaesthetic cream or a spray to numb the area of the vulva affected by cancer. They gently inject a small amount of radioactive liquid. The liquid drains into the nearest lymph nodes. You have scans over the next 90 minutes to show how and where the liquid goes. The doctor may also make marks with a marker pen on your skin. These marks and the scan pictures are useful when you have the SLNB.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our vulval cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
Morrison J, Baldwin P, Buckley L, et al. Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) vulval cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice. 2020. Available from https://www.bgcs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/BGCS-vulval-guidelines-v22.pdf [accessed November 2020].
Rogers LJ, and Cuello MA. Cancer of the vulva. Int J Gynaecol Obstet, 2018; 143, S2, 4-13. Available from https://doi.org/10.1002/ijgo.12609 [accessed November 2020].
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