Lymph is special fluid that circulates throughout your tissues and helps keep them healthy. Your lymph nodes help filter out the lymph, eliminating bacteria and other waste products—including cancer cells.
Sometimes breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit area, also called the axilla. If your doctor determines that your breast cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, you will need an axillary dissection.
Removal of the lymph nodes
Most often, your surgeon will remove the Level I and II lymph nodes during this procedure. The number of lymph nodes removed is variable.
Patients want to know how many lymph nodes may be removed. Generally, there are 45 lymph nodes in the axilla and 10–20 are removed during the operation.