MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute | 888-666-3432

Skin Cancer Procedures

davidson, head neck surgery

One of the primary ways that skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body is through the lymph nodes.  Lymph nodes are especially vulnerable because their job is to protect the body from bacteria.  They fight against the diseased fluid that leaks from a tumor.  If this cancerous fluid builds up in the lymph nodes, the cancer can spread.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, we consult with specialists in a wide range of fields to determine the most effective procedure for you.  We base our practice on the most current research. We also offer you access to cutting edge cancer clinical trials whenever available.

We offer our patients the most highly specialized procedures for skin cancer. These include:

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

The first lymph node that cancerous fluid can attack is called the sentinel lymph node. A sentinel lymph node biopsy determines whether cancer has spread to the sentinel lymph node. If the sentinel lymph node is cancerous, it is likely that other lymph nodes are too.

To perform the procedure, your surgical oncologist injects the tumor with radioactive dye. The dye identifies the sentinel lymph node and your surgical oncologist can surgically remove it. Then, a pathologist will inspect the lymph node carefully under a microscope to identify any signs of cancer.

Lymph Node Dissections

If your surgical oncologist determines that cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, you will need to have more lymph nodes removed. This procedure is called a lymph node dissection. The following are two types of specialized lymph node dissections we use for skin cancers or certain extremity soft tissue sarcomas:

  • Axillary lymph node dissection – A surgical procedure that removes tissue containing a group of affected lymph nodes from under the arm.
  • Inguinal-femoral lymph node dissection – A surgical procedure that removes tissue containing a group of affected lymph nodes from the groin area. 

Recovering From Skin Cancer Procedures

Your surgical oncologist will discuss with you the specifics of your procedure and what you can expect afterwards. Some side effects you may experience include:

  • Pain or swelling at the procedure site
  • Difficulty moving the arm or leg affected by the procedure

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a cancer specialist, call


Find a Doctor

Our skin cancer experts can help create a tailored plan just for you.


MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
3800 Reservoir Rd., NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center
18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

MedStar Washington Hospital Center
110 Irving St.
Washington, D.C. 20010

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