A lymph node excision biopsy is a mini-test procedure that checks if the lymph nodes are affected by any form of disease like cancer. During the procedure, a small piece of the lymph node is taken to be examined closely under a microscope.
Lymph nodes are small glands found inside the body and are mostly located in the neck, armpits and groin, as well as next to major organs like the lungs and intestines. These nodes are responsible for making the white blood cells, which fight off any kind of infection that attacks the body by simply trapping the germs.
Why a Lymph Node Excision Biopsy May Be Needed
As mentioned, a lymph node biopsy is a test that is done to find any presence of a disease. When lymph nodes get infected, they may become swollen or enlarged, which requires a checkup by a medical specialist. If the swelling reduces in size after the first round of treatment, then the patient might not need further medical checkups. On the other hand, if the swelling continues and the lymph node size increases, then a lymph node biopsy may be needed in order to either find any serious underlying causes like cancer, chronic infections, or immune disorders.
Types of Lymph Node Excision Biopsies
A lymph node biopsy takes place in a medical setting. This can be either at a hospital, a clinic, or a doctor’s office, and it’s done by a certified medical doctor. During the procedure, the doctor either removes a tissue sample of the lymph node, or the entire lymph node. The tissue is then taken to the laboratory, where is it examined under a microscope. There are different types of lymph node biopsies.
- Fine Needle Aspiration: Also known as FNA, for this type of lymph node biopsy the doctor, guided by an imaging device, uses a very fine hollow needle to remove samples like fluid or very small pieces of tissue from the affected lymph nodes. Beforehand, usually a topical anesthesia is used to numb the area to ease any discomfort the patient might feel. The procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes, and the patient is able to go home the same day.
- Open biopsy: An open biopsy is a surgical procedure done under local or general anesthesia or whereby the doctor surgically removes the affected lymph node, or a sample of it to be examined under a microscope. The procedure can take up to one hour after which the opening is sutured closed and bandaged. Healing can take up to two weeks.
- Sentinel biopsy: If other tests are inconclusive, then a sentinel lymph node biopsy is introduced, which is usually done in cancer cases. The sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node that is more likely to become affected by cancer. A blue dye, known as a tracer, is injected near the target area. The tracer travels into the sentinel lymph node and identifies the most immediate lymph nodes that the cancer cells are most probable to spread to. These lymph nodes are then removed for examination in the lab. If they are cancer-free, then surgery is not required. On the other hand, if they are affected by the cancer, then the doctor recommends the best mode of treatments.
How to Prepare for a Lymph Excision Node Biopsy
If a lymph node biopsy has been recommended for one reason or another by your doctor, then it is important to have several factors in mind for a safe biopsy. These include:
- Informing the doctor if you are pregnant
- Noting and informing the doctor if you are allergic to any medications or latex
- Informing your doctor if you have any blood disorders
- Informing your doctor of any medications you might be taking
- Stopping consumption of any prescription and non-prescription medications like blood thinners and supplements at least five days before the procedure.
Results of a Lymph Excision Node Biopsy
On average, the results of a lymph node biopsy take up to a week to be ready. Once they are back, your doctor will call you back to his office. The results will either show the presence of a disease, which would require further medical treatment, or if the results rule out the possibility of cancer, then additional medical tests might be recommended in order to find the underlying cause of the swollen lymph node.
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