Monday, April 9, 2012

The Sentinel Node

Years ago, when a woman had a mastectomy they just went ahead and scooped out all of her lymph nodes. This was a bad thing because lymph nodes fight infection and without them the tiniest cut on your arm can become serious business and being sans lymph nodes leads to a horrible affliction called Lymphodema where your arm swells up to the width of a basketball.

Now what they do is take the "sentinel nodes" to biopsy. The sentinel nodes are the first ones foreign matter {like cancer cells} would reach on their way out of the breast. To find these guardian nodes they inject a radioactive substance into the breast before surgery, and when they open you up they use a hand held geiger counter to find where the radioactive material has landed. To be double sure, when the surgeon is in there she injects blue dye which also gets caught in the sentinel nodes. Then they take the nodes that are "hot and blue". Usually folks have 3-5 sentinel nodes, but I apparently had just one, big, bad guardian node which is now on the scrap heap.

I wonder how people come up with this clever stuff. It sounds so crazy, but then someone says "yeah, good idea, let's try it," and it becomes standard procedure.

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my breasts were delivered to someone in a jar, bag or box to slice, dice and examine and ultimately throw in the incinerator. A job like this is so far from my reality, It's just surreal to me, the whole world of medicine, especially hard-core medicine like cancer treatment. We are all made of different stuff, that's for sure.

1 comment:

  1. Also sounds like some super secret heavy duty security site on the internet. Next summer's hottest box office smash? Emmy-winning HBO series? <3 <3 xo ox <3 <3