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Sentinel node biopsy safe, effective in head and neck melanomas, U-M study finds
Date:8/5/2011

This release is available in Spanish.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. A common technique for determining whether melanoma has spread can be used safely and effectively even in tumors from the head and neck area, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy involves injecting a special dye to identify the first node where cancer would likely spread. If that node is clean, patients can avoid further debilitating surgery to remove multiple lymph nodes. If that node shows cancer, patients know they need the more extensive surgery or further treatment with radiation, chemotherapy or a clinical trial. Patients with melanoma of a certain size or larger are routinely offered this procedure.

But many surgeons believed that the complex anatomy combined with the critical nerves and blood vessels in the head and neck area made sentinel lymph node biopsy unsafe and inaccurate for melanomas in that region.

In the current study, which appears online in Cancer, researchers looked at 353 head and neck melanoma patients who had received sentinel lymph node biopsy at U-M over a 10-year period. After reviewing patients' records, the researchers found that the sentinel lymph node could be identified in all but one patient, and no patients sustained permanent nerve injuries during the procedure.

About 20 percent of the patients had at least one sentinel node positive for cancer and were referred for a complete dissection to remove additional lymph nodes.

Among the remaining 283 patients with negative sentinel nodes, 12 patients recurred in the region where the sentinel lymph node was identified. This suggests that the test yielded 12 false-negative results, which means a negative test was incorrect 4 percent of the time. This rate is similar when sentinel lymph node biopsy is us
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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Sentinel node biopsy safe, effective in head and neck melanomas, U-M study finds 
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