Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
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 2 types of needle biopsies:
CT scan may be used
to help locate the biopsy site.
An open biopsy means removing the lymph nodes through an incision. A cut will be made in the skin. All or part of a lymph node will be removed. 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 medication.
Be sure to follow your doctor's
Results will be ready in about a week. Your doctor will tell you if further treatment is needed.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Care Ontario
Sentinel lymph node biopsy. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/staging/sentinel-node-biopsy-fact-sheet. Updated August 11, 2011. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Testing biopsy and cytology specimens for cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ped/content/ped_2_3x_testing_biopsy_and_cytology_specimens_for_cancer.asp?sitearea=ped. Accessed February 24, 2015
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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