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For many patients with smaller tumors, SNB is an appropriate procedure to determine whether cancer has spread outside of the breast and can be performed instead of an axillary lymph node dissection. SNB is associated with fewer long-term side effects than axillary lymph node dissection. However, it is not yet known whether SNB affects long-term survival in patients with breast cancer.
However, patients with larger tumors or clinically suspicious lymph nodes should have an axillary lymph node dissection instead of SNB. In addition, if the results of the SNB are positive for cancer, then a complete axillary lymph node dissection is needed to determine how far the cancer has spread. Talk with your doctor about whether SNB is an option for you.
If the results of the SNB show that the cancer has not spread, an axillary lymph node dissection is not needed, as long as an experienced surgical team performed the procedure.