WellSpan Home

Lymph Node Removal (Lymphadenectomy) for Melanoma

Surgery Overview

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

Recovery depends on the extent of the surgery and the site where the lymph nodes were removed.

Why It Is Done

Lymphadenectomy is done to remove lymph nodes that may have melanoma in them.

How Well It Works

Wide local excision and lymphadenectomy may cure some melanomas that have spread to the nearby lymph nodes but no farther.footnote 1

Risks

Surgery to remove lymph nodes can cause many side effects. The risks of lymphadenectomy include:

  • Buildup of fluid at the site of surgery (seroma).
  • Infection.
  • 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.

Swelling after surgery (lymphedema) can be prevented or controlled by use of antibiotics, support stockings (also called compression stockings), massage, and diuretics.

Lymphadenectomy usually is not needed if melanoma has not spread to the lymph nodes.

References

Citations

  1. National Cancer Institute (2012). Melanoma Treatment PDQ—Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/melanoma/healthprofessional.

Credits

Current as ofMarch 27, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×