Sentinel lymph node

Last revised by Dr Subhan Iqbal on 01 Feb 2021

The sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) are defined as those lymph nodes that directly drain a malignancy, or alternatively can be considered as the first node(s) that a tumor metastasizes to.

History and etymology

"Sentinel node" as the initial draining node of a malignancy was first used in a paper written in 1960 about parotid malignancies by American general surgeon Ernest A Gould (1913-1981 5) et al 4. No further development of this concept happened until the seminal study of penile carcinoma published in 1977 by American general surgeon Ramó​n M Cabañas (fl. 2020) 1,3

Sentinel refers to somebody on guard, and therefore has been adopted for the lymph node that stands guard over a cancer. It is from the Italian sentinella, meaning 'to sense or watch' 6.

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