Patient Information

Axillary surgery

The ‘axilla’ is the medical term for the armpit. When a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, their surgeon will want to talk to them about surgery to the lymph nodes in the axilla. This is usually done in conjunction with a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, but occasionally may be done as a procedure on its own.

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are small, jellybean-shaped structures that can be found all over the body. They contain immune cells and work to help fight and remove infection. Fluid (called ‘lymph’), filters through the lymph nodes before eventually passing back into bloodstream. Tiny cells from a cancer can potentially spread and travel to lymph nodes, where they can be identified if the lymph node is removed.

Why is testing the lymph nodes important?

The information from the removed lymph nodes can help with decisions regarding any adjuvant (extra) treatments or further surgery that you may require and give information about prognosis.


Dr Lancashire will discuss whether you need surgery on your lymph nodes and what you can expect.

There are two types of lymph node surgery for breast cancer. Read more about types of axillary surgery: