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Axillary dissection/axillary clearance

Axillary dissection involves removing several or all of the lymph nodes from the armpit.

If possible, this will be done during breast surgery (breast conserving surgery or mastectomy) and may be done through the same incision as the breast surgery itself. However, it may be done as a separate operation.

Because the number of lymph nodes in the armpit varies from person to person, the number of lymph nodes removed and the length of the operation will be different for each woman.

After axillary dissection, the lymph nodes are examined by a pathologist. The number of lymph nodes that have cancer cells in them will help the doctors decide what other treatments are best.

Treatment may involve systemic therapies (therapies that treat the whole body), such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, and less commonly, radiotherapy to the armpit.

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