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Lymph Node Biopsy

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(Biopsy Lymph Nodes)


What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Leading up to your procedure, you will need to:
  • Talk to your doctor about your medical history, including:
    • Any allergies that you have
    • Any medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and herbs and supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
      • Anti-inflammatory drugs
      • Blood thinners
  • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight if you will have general anesthesia.


Description of the Procedure

Lymph nodes samples can be obtained by:
  • Needle biopsy
  • Open biopsy
Needle Biopsy
There are two types of needle biopsies:
  • Fine needle biopsy —The doctor will use a thin, hollow needle to obtain tissue samples.
  • Core needle biopsy—The doctor will use a larger needle to cut out a piece of tissue.
The doctor may use an ultrasound or CT scan to help locate the biopsy site.
Lymph Node Biopsy
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Lymph Node Biopsy
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Open Biopsy
An open biopsy means removing the lymph nodes through an incision. The doctor will cut into the skin and remove either all or part of a lymph node. After removal, the incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged.

Immediately After Procedure

The sample will be sent to the lab for examination.

How Long Will It Take?

About 30-60 minutes—longer if an ultrasound or CT scan is used.

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will have some pain and tenderness after the biopsy is taken. Your doctor may give you pain medicine.

Post-procedure Care

When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
  • Keep the biopsy site clean and dry.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
Results will be ready in about a week. Your doctor will tell you if further treatment is needed.


American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute


Canadian Cancer Society

Cancer Care Ontario


Sentinel lymph node biopsy: questions and answers. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/therapy/sentinel-node-biopsy . Updated August 11, 2011. Accessed April 29, 2013.

Testing biopsy and cytology specimens for cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ped/content/ped%5F2%5F3x%5Ftesting%5Fbiopsy%5Fand%5Fcytology%5Fspecimens%5Ffor%5Fcancer.asp?sitearea=ped . Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed April 29, 2013.

Zaret BL, Jatlow PI, Katz LD. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1997.


Revision Information

Review Date: 04/2013
  • Update Date: 03/18/2013