What is Lymphoscintigraphy?

This Procedure Can Be Essential in Managing Early Breast Cancer

Sentinel Node Biopsy
Sentinel Node Biopsy. Credit: ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

If your doctor has recommended you undergo lymphoscintigraphy, you may be nervous and unclear of what to expect. A simple and painless tool, a lymphoscintigraphy can be extremely helpful in battling breast cancer. 

A lymphoscintigraphy, also known as sentinel node mapping, is an imaging procedure that determines lymph drainage and the number of sentinel nodes. If the node is in an unusual location, the lymphoscintigraphy will identify the location for a biopsy.


Lymphoscintigraphy and Breast Cancer

Lymphoscintigraphy tests are becoming more commonly used to manage early breast cancer. Previously little used, recent studies have shown that it is very effective. While it was previously used to identify other conditions, it has been proven to be particularly useful in breast cancer.

In the case of metastatic breast cancer, the sentinel nodes are the first to show evidence of metastatic deposits. The lymphoscintigraphy can identify these irregular nodes and also tell if the nodes are instead free from metastasis.  

Physicians perform lymphoscintigraphies to plan a biopsy or surgery and develop a comprehensive treatment plan. 

What Should I Expect During a Lymphoscintigraphy?

You probably will undergo a lymphoscintigraphy in an outpatient or clinic setting, however, some hospitals offer it as well. Depending on where you are going for this test, you may either be asked to wear a medical gown or just remain in your own clothes; it's suggested that you wear comfortable clothing without metal snaps or buttons.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to inform your doctor, as this test is not recommended for pregnant women or women currently breastfeeding. Also let your doctor know any medications you may be taking, including any herbal supplements or vitamins. Before the procedure, remove any jewelry or accessories that have any metal.


You will be asked to lie down on an examination table. lymphoscintigraphy used a radioactive material to get an image of the breast. Your nurse may insert an IV into your arm, depending on your needs. The necessary radioactive material will be given, potentially through multiple injections around the tumor or areola. The specialized camera will take images of the affected area. Depending on the clinic, you may be asked to change your position in order to get images of different areas. The test's duration can range a great deal, anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. 

How Will I Feel After the Lymphoscintigraphy?

Beyond the needle or IV placement, the lymphoscintigraphy is completely painless; you shouldn't experience discomfort or side effects. After the injection, you may experience a cooling sensation, but it should not be uncomfortable. 

The most difficult part of the screening is that you must remain still in order to get the necessary images. The most discomfort you will likely experience is the urge to move.


After the procedure, you will likely be able to go back to your normal routine. In rare cases, your doctor may recommend adjustments, such as extended rest. This will be communicated to you before you leave. It is suggested that you drink more water in order to help your body flush out the radioactive materials used during the lymphoscintigraphy. 


Durre, Sabih. "Lymphoscintigraphy". MedScape, 2015. 

Continue Reading