What medications you are taking (including any supplements or herbal remedies)
Your doctor may ask you to:
Stop taking any blood thinners, such as aspirin, heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix) 5 to 10 days before the procedure
Not eat or drink anything after a certain period of time before the biopsy
Arrive at a certain time for the procedure
You must sign a consent form.
How the Test will Feel
When the local anesthetic is injected, you will feel a prick and a mild stinging. The biopsy site will be sore for a few days after the test.
After an open biopsy, the pain is mild and you can easily control it with an over-the-counter pain medication. You may also notice some bruising or fluid leaking for a few days. The incision should heal in 10 to 14 days. Follow instructions for taking care of the incision. While the incision is healing, avoid any type of intense exercise or heavy lifting.
Why the Test is Performed
The test is used to diagnose cancer, sarcoidosis, or an infection (such as tuberculosis):
For some patients with breast cancer or melanoma, to see if the cancer has spread (sentinel lymph node biopsy)
The results of the biopsy help your doctor decide on further tests and treatments.
If a lymph node biopsy does not show any signs of cancer, it is more likely that other lymph nodes nearby are also cancer-free. This information can help the health care provider decide about further tests and treatments.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to many different conditions, from very mild infections to cancer.
Infection (in rare cases, the wound may get infected and you may need to take antibiotics)
Nerve injury if the biopsy is done on a lymph node close to nerves (the numbness usually goes away in a few months)
Chang KL, Arber DA, Weiss LM. Lymph nodes. In: Weidner N, Cote RJ, Suster S, Weiss LM. Modern Surgical Pathology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 41.
John A. Daller, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.