As a concept sentinel lymph node biopsy seems attractive in that it attempts to identify the first lymph node, rather than the nearest node, draining a particular anatomic area where a tumour has arisen. Pathological assessment can then indicate whether metastases are present and the procedure is either a strong prognostic indicator or possibly therapeutic in itself. These comments apply to any tumour type, but with melanoma the pathological procedure is more problematic and any benefits above prognosis and staging are not universally accepted. The procedure does give accurate staging without the extra morbidity of regional node dissection and many patients gain psychological support from the information gained.
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Competing interests: None declared.
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