Confused re SNB results

Can anyone help? I had my SNB on 1 Feb and for a variety of reasons didn’t get my results. I called today to chase them, and was told the following which confused me.

Two nodes removed, the sentinel node was clear, but the other node was cancerous. She also mentioned “metastatis” or some form of the word indicating that she meant it had spread.

I did question her, as

(a) I can’t understand how the sentinel node was clear but another wasn’t - thought the sentinel node was the first one reached from the breast, so if it was clear, the others had to be? Unless you have more than one sentinel? But she specifically said sentinel clear, the other node wasn’t?!

(b) I thought metastatic (sp?) meant that the spread was elsewhere in the body and that if it is only in the breast/lymph nodes then its still classed as primary cancer? Or do they use the word metastatus to indicate spread of any sort? Could they tell about spread elsewhere purely from a SNB?

Any light you can shed would be appreciated - the lady I spoke to wasn’t really able to help, so I won’t learn more until my consultants appt in two weeks. Thanks,

Hi Scotta
I thought others would reply to you who are more knowledgable than me but they havent so i will share a little of what i know and hope its correct information. and a little helpful.
I had SNB back in Nov 05 and a lumpectomy. I had 4 glands taken and was fortunate that all were clear with the glands. I think it differs on how many SN we have.
They told me that if only one was affected they would leave the others there but if 2 were affected they would remove them all, but this is i feel your choice. In all honesty if one of mine was affected i would have said go in and remove them all.
My understanding is that mets are when it has spread from the primary site. Your breast is the primary site and the spread to the one gland is metastic. I know we have different mets some being bones and our vital organs.
They cannot tell from the SNB about further spread you would need scans.

I would try and ask someone on BCC they are very hepful and you can ring them for advice.
Personally i found if i went into appt with a little knowledge they listened more and i felt more in control of my treatment. It is a extremely worrying time for you…
It is NOT helpful to get results like the ones you have got on the phone and i do feel for you now being in a state of anxiety and not understanding things.

You dont say your age and size of tumour which would also be relevent in your future treatment if it is hormone + - and if it is herceptin +.

Thinking of you hope it goes ok


Hi Scotta

I think it may help you to call our helpline as Liverbird has kindly suggested. Our specialist nurses will be able to talk you through what you have been told and try and help clarify things for you. The number to call is 0808 800 6000 Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and Sat 9am-2pm.

Best wishes

Hi Scotta. I have just seen your posting. Sorry you are feeling unclear about things. As Liverbird says, when there are cancer cells in any of the lymph nodes in the axilla of the affected breast they still refer to this in the path report as metastasis - meaning by that that they have come from the tumour in the breast. This is still primary breast cancer, and does not indicate in any way that there is any spread beyond the lymph nodes (tumours in other parts of the body which have originated from the breast are called secondary cancer). Please breathe easier about that one. I had the same as you, two lymph nodes removed, the SN being clear, and the second one, in my case, just with a few tiny cells, bordering on the negative. I think this can happen sometimes, when I had the “mapping” before the op you could see two nodes “light up” showing that the lymph was flowing to them, the sentinel node strongly, and the second more weakly, and that’s why two were removed. You do not mention whether more surgery has been suggested or not - I guess you will be told that when you see the surgeon, but as it is several weeks after the surgery perhaps they are quite happy that they have removed enough with those two nodes. Main thing I would say is try not to worry too much, Good luck and let us know how you get on. Best wishes. Sarah,

Hi Ladies,

Many thanks for your replies; they’re really helpful and have explained things further, and set my mind more at rest. I guess I am more confused than worried, as I’m getting chemo first before surgery, so whatever the case, the little blighters are getting zapped right now! I’m also trying to think positive in that I understand they usually remove any suspicious looking nodes with the SNB, so if its only one node affected then that’s better than several.

I’m not sure what the SNB results mean for my future treatment, but I’ll be able to discuss that with my consultant I guess. I had my SNB only 10 days after first finding out about BC and only 3 after confirmation, so I wasn’t taking everything in, and am not sure what will happen when I get to surgery re the nodes. But as that was further down the road, it wasn’t my priority on the info front at the time! I guess now I am starting to think about it and will have a shedload of questions for my consultant next appt!!!

I’m 37, with a Grade 3 lump (almost 5cm) and it’s triple negative. I am getting six AC then surgery and then there’s a possibility of radiotherapy too. I’m halfway between AC no 2 & 3, and have been really lucky as the side effects have been minimal - only a little more tired than normal. I’ve been working as normal - albeit not operating at capacity!!! And managing to have loads of fun with my wee one too (he’s 18 months and such fun just now), so I’ve lots to be thankful for.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply, it’s much appreciated - and good luck to you all with your journey,