The Biopsy Experience for Blood Cancer Diagnosis

Depending on a patient’s symptoms or abnormal lab values, the physician may consider a biopsy in order to examine the cells and make a definite determination of the diagnosis. Frequently, blood cancer patients experience symptoms of fatigue, night sweats, or enlarged lymph nodes. In my case, during a routine ultrasound test, enlarged lymph nodes were discovered. My physician recommended a biopsy where a small amount of tissue is removed to examine the cells under a microscope.

Types of biopsies

There are different types of biopsies depending on the location of the enlarged lymph node or tumor.

Image-guided biopsy- If the physician cannot feel the tumor or lymph node, it may show up on an imaging scan. This is the type of biopsy that was necessary for my diagnosis. During this procedure, the physician guides the needle to the location with the help of the imaging techniques. The following scans may be utilized: ultrasound, fluoroscopy, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging, (MRI). Under the visualization from a CAT scan, after receiving a mild sedative my abdominal enlarged lymph node was biopsied, the cells studied under a microscope and a diagnosis of follicular lymphoma was made.

Fine needle aspiration biopsy- during this procedure, a very thin, hollow needle attached to a syringe is used by the physician to collect a small amount of tissue from the suspicious area for further study and analysis.

Core needle biopsy- a larger amount of issue is required therefore the physician uses a larger needle.

Excisional biopsy- in this biopsy the physician removes the entire suspicious area.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy- a bone marrow aspiration removes a sample of the fluid with a needle, the bone marrow biopsy removes a small amount of solid tissue. Both samples are examined to make a diagnosis of blood cancers including grade and stage of cancer.

Before your biopsy

You should ask the physician if you can eat or drink before the procedure. Tell your physician about all medications you are taking especially blood thinners and aspirin. Be sure to include any drug allergies.

During the procedure

The physician will administer some type of medication to block the awareness of pain. This may be local anesthesia, such as a local anesthetic by a needle to numb the area. Or conscious sedation when medication is given IV to relax the patient and reduce the perception of pain.

After the procedure

Your physician will explain the recovery period. You may be able to resume your normal activities immediately after the procedure. However, avoid extremely strenuous activity for the rest of the day of your biopsy. If you receive sedation, you should have someone drive you home after the procedure. Talk with your physician as to care of the biopsy site, changing the dressing and site care. The biopsy site should not bleed excessively and never drain pus. If you do experience any problem with significant bleeding, redness, infection, or other problems, you must call your physician.

Using the results fo the biopsy to diagnose

The cells removed from the biopsy will be examined by the pathologist to determine tumor grade or how the abnormal tumor cells look. It is an indicator of how quickly the tumor is likely to grow or spread. The cancer stage refers to the size and/or extent of the original tumor and whether the cancer cells have spread in the body. The results may take up to 10 days to be reported. Be sure to ask your physician when you can anticipate the results with a simple explanation.

Based on the results of the biopsy, the oncologist can explore the latest research-based protocols and select the appropriate treatment for the identified blood cancer.

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