Lymph Node Biopsy
Lymph Node Biopsy
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 axillary lymph nodes (axillary lymph node dissection). 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.
- Before a sentinel node biopsy is done, a
special test is done to find which lymph nodes are involved. A radioactive
tracer is put into the area where the cancer is found and a special camera
takes pictures of the lymph nodes. A blue dye may also be used during a
sentinel node biopsy. The first lymph nodes to show the tracer are the sentinel
nodes. The dye may cause your skin to look blue or green for several days after
the biopsy. It also makes your urine green for 24 hours.
- The sentinel nodes are removed and looked at under a
microscope for cancer. If the sentinel nodes have cancer cells, a more
extensive lymph node dissection may be done to find out how far the cancer
- 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
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
C. Dale Mercer, MD, FRCSC, FACS - General Surgery
March 29, 2011
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