What is a Lymph Node Breast Biopsy?

A lymph node biopsy removes lymph node tissue to be examined under a microscope for signs of infection or a disease, such as cancer.

Why is a Lymph Node Biopsy Performed?

Lymph node biopsy is done to:

  • Check the cause of enlarged lymph nodes that do not return to normal size on their own
  • Check the cause of symptoms, such as ongoing fever, night sweats, or weight loss
  • Check to see if a known cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, a technique known as staging, done to plan cancer treatment
  • Remove cancer

How Is It Done?

There are several ways to retrieve a lymph node sample for examination under a microscope:

  • A fine-needle aspiration biopsy puts a thin needle into the lymph node and removes cells for examination.
  • A core-needle biopsy inserts a special needle through the skin and into the lymph node to take a sample of tissue about the size of a pencil lead.
  • An open biopsy makes a cut in the skin and removes the lymph node. If more than one lymph node is taken, the biopsy is called a lymph node dissection. These procedures allow your doctor to take a bigger sample than a needle biopsy.

How does a Lymph Node Biopsy Feel?

You will feel only a quick sting from the needle if you receive a local anesthetic to numb the skin. You may feel some pressure when the biopsy needle is inserted. After a fine-needle aspiration or core-needle biopsy, the site may be tender for two to three days and you may have a bruise around the site.

What to Think About:

  • Lymphoma, or cancer that begins in the lymph nodes, is the most common form of cancer in teens and younger adults. Even though most enlarged lymph nodes are not caused by lymphoma, it is important to have your doctor check any enlarged lymph nodes that do not go away.
  • Looking at a lymph node under a microscope does not always give a clear diagnosis. In such cases, other tests will be needed to find the cause of the problem. If an infection is present, a culture of the lymph node may be done to find what is causing the infection.
  • Sometimes a lymph node sample is treated with special markers, or antibodies, that attach to abnormal cells. Marker studies may be done to find lymphomas and other types of cancers.

What Happens After the Biopsy?

A radiologist will interpret your exam. The technologist who administers the test cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report will be sent to your doctor's office to discuss results.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment, call a Memorial Hermann Breast Care Center at (877) 40-MAMMO (62666), or Memorial Hermann Imaging Center, call (877) 704-8700.

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