Biopsy for Lymphoma
A biopsy is a procedure during which a doctor takes a small sample of cells from tumor or mass. A pathologist examines the tissue sample under a microscope and determines whether the cells are normal or cancerous.
We use the least invasive biopsy procedure possible, minimizing discomfort while still obtaining enough cells to make a diagnosis.
We offer several types of biopsy and you may need one or more types depending on your individual case.
- Needle biopsy: The doctor inserts a needle into the suspicious tissue to remove a tiny sample of cells. There are 2 types of needle biopsy:
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy uses a very thin needle and syringe. You may or may not need a local anesthetic (numbing medicine) for this procedure.
- Core biopsy uses a wider needle to take the sample. This is the needle biopsy procedure we use most often to confirm a diagnosis.
- Surgical biopsy: In some situations, a surgeon may remove some or all of a tumor for testing. The goal is to determine whether the tumor is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Bone marrow biopsy
A bone marrow biopsy removes a small amount of tissue from inside the bone. These tests are often done to look for lymphoma and to evaluate the health of the bone marrow.
If your doctor recommends a bone marrow biopsy, your care team will apply an anesthetic to the skin over your hip and your doctor will insert a needle into pelvic bone to withdraw the necessary cells. You will be sore for a day or two after the procedure.
Pathology: Analyzing biopsies
After you have a biopsy, your nurse sends your tissue samples to our pathologists for review. A pathologist is a medical doctor who specializes in reviewing and evaluating lab tests, cells, and tissues to diagnose disease. Our pathologists analyze biopsy samples to determine whether the tissue is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer it is.
At the Stanford, our pathologists specialize in specific type of cancer study. That focus means they have extensive expertise interpreting biopsies and other tests to confirm or rule out a cancer diagnosis.
Because cancer represents a complex group of different diseases, it’s important to have expert pathologists on your care team. Years of experience studying specific cancers every day means your pathologist can accurately identify critical details. This information includes whether the cancer:
- Is invasive or noninvasive
- Shows a high or low cell grade (rating that describes how different the cancer cells are from normal cells)
- Is aggressive or slow growing
- Contains molecules that indicate the cancer subtype
All these details help form an accurate diagnosis, which is vital to your treatment plan. Your care team takes the time to do a thorough evaluation from the start, so that your treatment will be more effective.
Tumor tissue bank
Our doctors and researchers work to thoroughly understand the true diversity of cancer and identify the genetic abnormalities that can play a role in cancer formation. That’s why it’s critical that our doctors have access to tissue samples to plan for each patient’s care.
At Stanford, we store tissue samples, so we can use them for research, using the following process:
- After we take a biopsy (tiny sample of tissue), we ask you if you would like to give it to the tissue bank.
- The tissue first goes to the laboratory, where the pathologist samples it.
- If you approve, the tissue then goes to cancer research specialists. These doctors work with our clinicians (doctors involved in patient care) to identify new pathways of tumor formation and possible treatments.
- The data is made anonymous and is not available to you after donation, because we use it for research and not for clinical use in making treatment decisions.
Our tumor bank provides our doctors and other researchers with a variety of different types of cancer cells to study. As we work on new methods and tools for diagnosing and treating cancer, our goal is to move these findings from the lab into patient care.