Lymph Node Biopsy


This procedure takes a sample of lymph node tissue from your body. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands. They're part of your lymphatic system. Cancer may spread through this system to other parts of your body. With a biopsy, we can look for these spreading cancer cells.

Basic methods

How is a lymph node biopsy done? Well, there are a few methods. Some biopsies are taken with a simple procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision in your skin to reach the lymph node. The entire node, or just part of it, is then removed. A biopsy can also be taken with a needle.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy

In other cases, a lymph node biopsy may be more complicated. Your doctor may want to find the lymph node closest to your tumor (called the "sentinel lymph node") to see if your cancer has spread. To do this, a radioactive fluid, a dye, or both are injected at your tumor site. Your doctor traces the path of this fluid through your lymphatic system. The nodes where the fluid travels to are then biopsied.


After your biopsy, the sample is taken to a lab and studied. You may have a followup appointment with your doctor to talk about the results.