Understanding Soft Tissue Sarcoma: Lymph Node Removal

Lymph fluid is a clear liquid that flows through your body and to many tissues of the body.  It circulates plasma like fluid in your tissues to clean them and transports white blood cells and other immune cells in this fluid. Lymph fluid is taken away through your body’s lymph system and eventually drains back towards the heart.

Your lymph nodes are the filters for the lymph fluid and immune cells in this system. They are designed to filter out bacteria, viruses, as well as cancer cells that have metastasized in order to prevent illness.

You can see how lymph nodes affect every part of your body. That’s why it is very important to find out if the cancer has spread to them.

A few lymph nodes may be removed to be sent to a pathologist to check for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes, more may need to be removed. Lymph nodes under the arms (in the arm pit) and in the groin areas are the most commonly removed lymph nodes. You may have lymph nodes removed as part of another surgery such as a wide local excision, limb-sparing surgery, or diagnostic biopsy.

Lymphedema is a potential side effects of having lymph nodes removed. The symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • Swelling (pressing the skin with your finger may leave a dent or impression)
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Loss of ability to move the affected area
  • Hardened skin
  • Ulcerations/tears in swollen skin

Be sure to discuss these with your surgeon beforehand. There are steps you can take to manage lymphedema such as practicing good skin care and wearing a compression sleeve as prescribed by your doctor. 

Learn more about managing the side effects of lymphedema. 

Back to “Understanding Soft Tissue Sarcoma: An Introduction.”