Surgery to the lymph nodes for skin cancer
If there is evidence that a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) has spread, you may need to have some lymph nodes removed.
If there is evidence that a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) has spread, you may need to have some lymph nodes removed. This operation is called a lymphadenectomy or lymph node dissection. It is done to see if there are any cancer cells in the lymph nodes.
If cancer cells are present, removing the lymph nodes can help to prevent them from spreading further. This is a large operation and is done under a general anaesthetic.
Only a very small number of people who have SCCs need this operation. It is not done for people with basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), as they almost never spread to the lymph nodes.
After a lymphadenectomy, you will have tubes (drains) coming from the wound to allow fluid to drain away. These will be removed a few days after the operation.
Occasionally, this operation may cause permanent swelling of the affected area. This is called lymphoedema. It happens when lymph fluid cannot drain properly from the area after the lymph nodes have been removed.