Completion Lymph Node Dissection

This will not be offered routinely to any patients as there is no evidence that patients lived longer after having this procedure. There will be some circumstances where your doctor still feels that this is the best treatment option for you and the advantages and disadvantages of this will be discussed with you.

What is it?

If the melanoma has been found to be in the sentinel lymph node, a completion lymph node dissection is a further operation to remove the other nodes in the same area, in case they are also cancerous. A similar operation may be carried out if at some time you develop a lump in one of your lymph nodes that can be felt and the node is shown to be involved with melanoma.  This operation is usually carried out under general anaesthetic.

Risks and side effects

Lymph node removal is a major surgical procedure, but the impact varies according to which lymph nodes are removed.  After the operation, you may experience pain, swelling and bruising of the area operated on, and some numbness, stiffness and reduced movement. These side effects would usually be temporary. Possible complications include infection and a build-up of fluid in the area of the operation. You will remain at an increased risk of lymphoedema for the rest of your life. The majority of people experience some degree of lymphoedema and for many this requires control of the lymphoedema through elastic sleeves or stockings, exercise and massage.

More information on lymph node removal (also known as lymph node clearance or lymphadenectomy) can be found here.

Values you may wish to consider during treatment

    • Is the most important thing to you having treatment that gives you the best chance of curing your melanoma?
    • How prepared are you to have a treatment that has a potential risk of causing serious side effects or complications?
    • How prepared are you to have a year of treatment?
    • Is it important to you whether you have oral treatment or treatment in hospital?
    • How much time are you prepared to spend in hospital having treatment?
    • How much do you want to avoid having a visible scar after treatment?
    • How important is it to you to know everything about your risk of future melanoma?
    • How important is it to you to maintain living an active lifestyle, taking into account your daily activities and hobbies?
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