Lymph nodes are found throughout the body. They are part of the body’s immune system. These nodes help fight infection by producing special white blood cells. They also work by trapping bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Normally, lymph nodes cannot be felt unless they are swollen. Infection, usually by a virus, is the most common cause of lymph node swelling. Other causes include bacterial infection and cancer.
With this type of biopsy, the doctor removes and examines all or part of a lymph node.
This biopsy is done to find out why a node is swollen. It can also be done to see if there are cancer cells in the lymph node.
Common areas for biopsy include:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a lymph node biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Leading up to your procedure, you will need to:
Lymph nodes samples can be obtained by:
There are two types of needle biopsies:
An open biopsy means removing the lymph nodes through an incision. The doctor will cut into the skin and remove either all or part of a lymph node. After removal, the incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged.
The sample will be sent to the lab for examination.
About 30-60 minutes—longer if an ultrasound or CT scan is used.
You will have some pain and tenderness after the biopsy is taken. Your doctor may give you pain medicine.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Results will be ready in about a week. Your doctor will tell you if further treatment is needed.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Care Ontario
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: questions and answers. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.... . Updated August 11, 2011. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Testing biopsy and cytology specimens for cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.... . Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Zaret BL, Jatlow PI, Katz LD. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1997.