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Sentinal node biopsy and the prognostic value of tumour burden

The sentinel node biopsy technique is a method by which the surgeon samples the regional lymph node(s) that directly drain the area of skin in which the melanoma arose; (it is detected by a radioactive tracer technique that leads the surgeon to the right nodes).
In a large study conducted and recently reported from M.D. Anderson Hospital in Texas, the sentinel node status (positive or negative for melanoma) was found to be the most important prognostic factor for the future chance of remaining recurrence free and for survival in early stage melanoma patients. In the new analysis, the same workers have demonstrated that the density or burden of involvement within the sentinel nodes is even more valuable in determining the prognosis of these patients.