Axillary Clearance and/or Resection refers to surgery on the armpit area to remove lymph nodes as a way of removing cancerous cells that have been found there. 'Clearance' refers to a procedure where all of the lymph nodes are removed (also called 'dissection').
Although these procedures used to be standard practice in treating breast cancer, modern practice now favours the Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy approach in most cases of early breast cancer, which has less likelihood of side effects such as numbness, stiffness in the shoulder and lymphoedema.
Lymph node clearance is performed where the sentinel lymph node is positive.
The armpit lymph nodes are classified as either Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 depending on their position in the armpit. An axillary resection is generally restricted to Level 1 and Level 2 nodes only, with between 5 and 30 nodes (people naturally have varying numbers of axillary lymph nodes) removed in a typical procedure.