What is a lymph node biopsy?

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A lymph node biopsy is the removal of tissue from lymph nodes, small glands that are part of the immune system. The tissue is then examined under a microscope. You have hundreds of lymph nodes throughout your body, including in your neck, behind your ears, in your armpits and in your chest, abdomen and groin.

In some cases, a doctor will perform a biopsy using a needle to remove a small sample of cells (fine-needle aspiration biopsy). A core needle biopsy uses a needle with a special tip to remove a sample of tissue from a lymph node.

If a larger sample of tissue is needed, a doctor may elect to do an open biopsy, which is the removal of a lymph node through a cut in the skin. If more than one lymph node is removed, the procedure is called a lymph node dissection or lymph node sampling. Lymph node biopsies are usually performed to diagnose infection or disease, such as cancer, or to determine whether cancer from one part of the body has spread elsewhere. Other conditions that may be detected by a lymph node biopsy include HIV, tuberculosis and sarcoidosis, among others.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.