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Lymph Node Removal (Lymphadenectomy) for Melanoma

Surgery Overview

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 belly or around organs, such as the heart or liver. The surgery 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 the surgery. 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

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

How Well It Works

Wide local excision and lymph node removal 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 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.

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 of: December 17, 2020

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

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