Finding the Truth Through a Lymph Node Biopsy

The lymph nodes are a crucial part of the lymphatic system and ultimately the immune system. These lymph nodes are the ones that fight and eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses that invade our bodies.

Lymph nodes are spread in different areas of the body and are not always obvious to the touch. Some people though may be able to feel the small nodes in the arm pit area or behind the ears. This is especially true for young kids. Lymph nodes swell or increase in size usually when the body is fighting an infection. The swelling action is due to the increased production of white blood cells.

The swelling might also be because of cancer. This is partly why some people may have to undergo lymph node biopsy.

Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes may be swollen and tender for an extended period of time. Sometimes the nodes may seem fixed. Individuals with swollen nodes may also experience high fever and decreased weight.  When some or majority of these symptoms are observed, your doctor may require a lymph node biopsy to determine the real cause for swelling and to detect the possibility of cancer.

Lymph node biopsy simply means that a lymph node or part of it is removed to be assessed in a lab.


There are different ways to conduct a lymph node biopsy. Here are the currently used methods:

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)- This method is often used only when the lymph node is near the surface. It is done by inserting a needle through the skin and node so that a sample can be taken. The small sample is then examined in the lab. The procedure will only take a few minutes and the patient will be allowed to go home immediately.

Core Needle Biopsy- Just like FNA, this involves inserting a needle into the lymph node. The needle however has a different kind of tip that will allow the extraction of a core tissue sample. The needle is inserted through an incision.

Open Biopsy- In this procedure the whole lymph node, a slice of it or more than one lymph node is taken out for examination. This procedure may be a little more invasive than a needle biopsy and may take a little longer to recover from. It is sometimes still more ideal though because the larger sample will allow better chances of actually detecting cancer cells if they are present.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

This type of biopsy is conducted on individuals who have already been diagnosed with cancer. Through sentinel lymph node biopsy, your doctor will be able to determine if the cancer has spread. The sentinel node is actually the first node in the body that is arrived at by the cancer cells after they have moved on from the original site. 

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Ultrasound-Guided Needle Aspiration Cytology US-FNAC

This is a new method that is being developed that may precede sentinel lymph node biopsy. A study conducted on the procedure suggests that it is a highly accurate method in detecting whether cancer has spread to the nodes from the original tumor site. The procedure is especially valuable for patients who do not actually need to undergo a sentinel biopsy.

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