March 16, 2009 -- Question: Can lymph node tissue be obtained by laparoscopy?
Answer: Every organ has lymph nodes that drain it. Many patients will ask me what a lymph node is and I like to explain it with this analogy: On a hot summer's day, you'll notice a pipe will often sweat and that water condenses on the outside. The same thing happens in our blood vessels. Our blood vessels lose water to the nearby tissues. This water and fluid is then reabsorbed and dumped back into the bloodstream by the lymphatic system.
So the lymph nodes actually will drain much of this fluid and any cells that are contained within it, and they will filter that fluid and dump it back into the blood circulation. And so the prostate, like any other organ, has its nearby lymph nodes. And it's important to check those lymph nodes, in many cases, to see if those lymph nodes are involved with cancer.
Now, there have been some studies to suggest that in patients with very low-risk prostate cancer, those lymph nodes need not even be removed because the chances of them being involved is very low. However, in some cases, and in many cases of prostate cancer, it would be very much ideal if you could remove those nearby lymph nodes and check them. And this can certainly be done via any number of techniques, including an open incision, laparoscopic incisions or robotic incisions. So the answer to the question is, lymph nodes can be removed laparoscopically or robotically in a very effective and safe manner.