Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes are bean-shaped glands located in your neck, armpits, groin, chest and abdomen. They are part of your immune system and contain white blood cells that help fight off infections. Lymph nodes can become enlarged because of a viral infection, bacterial infection or an infection located somewhere else in your body; cancer can also cause enlarged lymph nodes.
Man and woman going over lymph node biopsy

Types of Biopsies

In order to determine the cause of your lymph node enlargement, your doctor may order a biopsy. This procedure involves removing a small amount of lymph node tissue, which will then be looked at under a microscope. Below are the most common types of lymph node biopsies:

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy

    This quick procedure involves inserting a thin needle into the lymph node and removing a sample of cells.

  • Core needle biopsy

    This involves inserting a needle with a special tip into the lymph node and inserting a rice-sized portion of issue. A core needle biopsy takes about 20 minutes.

  • Open (surgical) biopsy

    This requires your doctor to make a small cut in your skin and remove a lymph node. This process allows your doctor to take a bigger sample than a needle biopsy could collect. An open biopsy takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete; if this biopsy is performed to remove cancer then it may take longer.

A lymph node biopsy may also be ordered to check to see if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. This is called staging and is done help plan a cancer treatment.

What can I expect after the Biopsy?

The site of the core or fine-needle biopsy will be tender for a few days following the procedure. Many report feeling tired for one to two days following the biopsy as well.

After an open biopsy, the area may be tender, swollen and bruised. You may use an ice pack or take over-the-counter pain medication (not aspirin) to help relieve the pain and swelling. These symptoms should resolve after one to two weeks.

Contact Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat for more information or to schedule an appointment.