Why are some of my lymph nodes removed during surgery?

Technically referred to as an axillary node dissection or sentinel node dissection, the removal of one, some, or all of the lymph nodes under your arm on the side of the affected breast provides significant information to the oncologist in determining what type of treatment may be required beyond surgery. Breast cancer cells can travel and spread through the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. Since the lymph nodes from the chest area are connected through the underarm area before dispersing out to the body, the surgeon can remove a sampling from that area to determine if any cancer cells have spread beyond the chest. If no cancer cells are identified in the lymph nodes, the doctors may conclude that the cancer was locally contained, meaning it had not spread beyond the breast. Alternatively, if there are cancer cells in the nodes, doctors may want to treat the cancer more aggressively to kill those cells that have traveled beyond the chest and prevent the further spread of carcinogenic cells to other organs and promote cancer growth in other areas of the body.