Published: May 16, 2007
Updated: Aug. 22, 2011
What is a lymph node biopsy?
A lymph node biopsy is a procedure done to obtain a tissue sample from an enlarged lymph node. A lymph node sample can be obtained by a fine needle aspirate, a surgical lymph node biopsy, or other techniques. Your doctor will talk with you about the type of biopsy you will need.
Why is it ordered?
Lymph nodes in healthy people are usually difficult to feel. However, nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin can become enlarged and tender. Swollen lymph nodes may indicate an infection, but can also be a symptom of cancer, a medication reaction, or conditions that cause inflammation.
The biopsy is done to take tissue to look at under the microscope to diagnose the problem causing the enlarged lymph nodes.
What should my health care professional know before I have this test/procedure done?
Where is this done?
Do I need to have someone drive me home afterward?
Do I need to do anything to get ready for this test?
What happens during the procedure?
Fine needle aspirate:
Surgical lymph node biopsy:
Is this test/procedure painful?
How long does it take?
What happens after the procedure?
What are the risks with this procedure?
As with any procedure, there are small risks of bleeding and infection. These may be increased at times when you are more susceptible to bleeding or infection due to your disease or treatment. Precautions are taken to protect you from those risks as much as possible.
How will I get the results of this test?
Fine needle aspirate: When the pathologist has finished examining the tissue, you and your family will be called back to the exam room to discuss the preliminary results with your doctor.
Surgical lymph node biopsy: It may be several days before the results of a surgical lymph node biopsy are available. Your doctor will make an appointment with you to discuss the results or may call and discuss the results with you on the phone. Before you leave after having the biopsy done, you will have a plan in place for finding out the results.
Call your doctor if any of these things happen to you.
Call your doctor or nurse if you notice:
This article is intended as a resource for patients receiving their cancer care at Duke University Hospital or Duke Clinic. It is not intended to substitute for medical advice from your health care team. If your doctor’s instructions differ from the information in this article, please talk with your doctor before making any changes.
Source: Duke Cancer Patient Education Program; approved: Duke PEC, 12/03