Lymph Node Biopsy
A lymph node
lymph node tissue to be looked at under a microscope
for signs of infection or a disease, such as cancer. Test results from a lymph
node biopsy are usually available within a few days. Finding some types of
infections may take longer.
The lymph node sample is usually
treated with special dyes (stains) that color the cells and make problems more
Lymph node biopsy
The lymph node has normal numbers of lymph
The structure of the lymph node and the
appearance of the cells in it are normal.
No signs of infection are
Signs of infection, such as
mononucleosis (mono) or
tuberculosis (TB), may be present.
Cancer cells may be present. Cancer may
begin in the lymph node, such as
Hodgkin's lymphoma, or may have spread from other
sites, such as in
metastatic breast cancer.
What Affects the Test
A needle biopsy takes tissue
from a small area, so there is a chance that a cancer may be missed.
What To Think About
- Cancer that begins in the lymph nodes (lymphoma) is the most common form of cancer in teens
and young adults. Even though most enlarged lymph nodes are not caused by
lymphoma, it is important to have enlarged lymph nodes that do not go away
checked by your doctor.
- Looking at a lymph node under a microscope
does not always give a clear diagnosis. In these cases, other tests are 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 (antibodies) that attach to abnormal
cells. Marker studies may be done to find lymphomas and other types of
- Sentinel node biopsy may be done instead of removing an entire
group of lymph nodes. A sentinel node
is the first lymph node to which a certain cancer would travel. In some cases,
there may be more than one sentinel node. Sentinel node biopsy takes out less
tissue, and it does not cause as many problems with lymphedema.
To learn more, see the topic Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy.
- Some lymph node biopsies may be done using special tools in which
a thin lighted tube is used to take out a lymph node:
uses a lighted viewing scope (laparoscope) to look inside the belly and take a
biopsy of lymph nodes. It may be done to find cancer that has spread in the
belly. To learn more, see the topic
- Mediastinoscopy uses a
lighted viewing scope (mediastinoscope) to look inside the chest. The scope can
be used to take out samples of lymph nodes in the chest to see if lung cancer
has spread to the lymph nodes. To learn more, see the topic