A look at the Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes, immune system tissue that makes up part of lymph vessels, are part of the lymphatic system. It is this system that delivers fluids to the heart and allows the passage of immune cells throughout the body. Lymph nodes play a very important part in the bodies defence mechanisms.

When cancer spreads from outside singular organs / tissues it often makes use of the lymphatic system to spread throughout the body. Therefore in advanced prostate cancer it is often necessary to analyse tissue from the adjacent pelvic lymph nodes to check for signs of cancer. There are many ways of removing lymph nodes and the procedure is known as a lymphadenectomy.

The Lymph Node Biopsy Procedure

In most cases the performance of a Lymph node biopsy procedure is used to analyse what stage a cancer may have reached. The biopsy makes it easier for the doctor to recommend the appropriate treatment for prostate cancer that may be required.

Due to the advancement of other techniques such as PSA tests, the performance of lymph nodes biopsy for analysis is carried out far less frequently than in the past. In some prostate cancer treatments such as cryptology or radiation treatment then a biopsy of the lymph nodes may be performed prior to treatment to establish the true nature of a cancers advancement.

As a generalisation the removal of the lymphs is not used to fight cancer per se; if cancer is found in the nodes then the cancer would have already had a chance to enter the bloodstream and advance onto other organs. The doctor will therefore perform further tests in other areas of the body if the lymph nodes are found to be cancerous.

Types of Lymph Node Operations

There are several types of techniques that can be used for the removal of the lymph nodes or to gain tissue samples. These include:

Fine needle Aspiration (FNA): in this technique a fine needle is inserted into enlarged lymph nodes, tissue is removed, and the cells are analysed under a microscope for signs of cancer.

Laparoscopic Lymphadenectomy: This technique is slightly more invasive than FNA, but much less so than open lymphadenectomy (see below). Although the procedure is more time consuming than the use of open surgery, it usually results in far less pain and recovery times. The technique makes use of telescopic instruments to locate and remove the lymph nodes.

Open Lymphadenectomy: In this technique a surgeon will make a cut downwards from the abdomen, and remove the lymph node. The nodes will then be examined under a microscope. This technique is often used in conjunction with other prostate treatments.

If the surgeon is performing a radical prostatectomy then he will first analyse the results of the biopsy before deciding whether to remove the prostate or not. If signs of cancer are found in the lymph nodes then it is likely that the surgeon will decide not to remove the prostate. This is because the cancer is likely to have spread to other parts of the body and removal of the prostate will not contain the cancer, but may result in side effects.

There are many pros and cons of the different methods of lymph node biopsy and it is very important that you discuss these in depth with your doctor/ surgeon to make the best choices for your personal condition.

© Prostate Cancer Guide inc. 2006 - 2015