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Diagnosing Lymphoma - The Node Biopsy


Updated June 09, 2014

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What is a biopsy?:

A biopsy is a small procedure where a bit of tissue is taken from the nodes or other parts of the body which are suspected to have a tumor, and sent for testing.

Why is it important to take a biopsy?:

Tissue taken from the nodes can be processed in a lab, and presented to a pathologist. The pathologist looks at this tissue under a microscope and identifies what kind of disease is present. Not all large nodes contain lymphoma. The other causes need to be ruled out.

Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC):

FNAC is a simpler procedure where a fine needle is used to suck out some cells from the nodes or tissues which require testing. It hardly causes any pain, and is a quick procedure. But this test is not as good as a biopsy for initially diagnosing Lymphoma. The sucked out cells in the FNAC cannot always tell us the exact type of Lymphoma it is. For some tumors where a biopsy cannot be performed easily, this test is used to get tissue for testing.

How is a biopsy performed?:

For diagnosing Lymphomas, a biopsy usually needs to be taken from a Lymph node. A part of the body is chosen where lymph nodes can be felt by the doctor. An injection of local anesthetic is given so that you don't feel any pain during the procedure. A small cut is made on the skin and a single or a few lymph nodes are taken out. The cut is stitched back. You can go home soon after the procedure.

Reaching nodes and tumors deep in the body:

Sometimes large lymph nodes or other affected parts which need testing may be present deep inside the body where a simple biopsy cannot be performed. The doctor may then take the help of a radiologist to scan the body and guide a needle to the exact portion which has the tumor to be excised. The needle can then suck out tissue which can be sent to the pathologist for testing.

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