Axillary Dissection

An axillary dissection removes lymph nodes under the arm to help your doctor determine whether breast cancer has spread. When breast cancer spreads, it typically first goes to axillary lymph nodes.

Lymph node removal varies depending upon the size of the tumor, whether the lymph nodes are enlarged, and other factors. In axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), surgeons typically remove 10 to 40 lymph nodes from the armpit and examine them for cancerous cells. An ALND is usually conducted at the same time as a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery (BCS). An ALND can also be done during a second operation. The number of lymph nodes showing evidence of cancer is more important than the extent of cancer in any one node. This also helps determine the best course of treatment.

As with many surgeries, possible side effects can include pain, swelling, bleeding, blood clots, and infection.