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To diagnose what might be causing your swollen lymph nodes, your doctor may need:
Lymph node biopsy. If your doctor can't pin down the diagnosis, it may be helpful to remove a sample from a lymph node or even an entire lymph node for microscopic examination.
The method of biopsy may be fine-needle aspiration (FNA), which your doctor may perform during an office visit, or you may be referred to a surgeon or radiologist for this procedure. In FNA, the doctor inserts a thin, hollow needle into the lymph node and removes (aspirates) cells, which are then sent to a lab for study. Ultrasound — a noninvasive procedure that uses sound waves to create images of organs and tissues — may be used to guide the needle and ensure accuracy.
In some cases, you may require an excisional biopsy. This type of biopsy — also called surgical biopsy — removes a portion or all of a lymph node through an incision for analysis. A surgeon performs this procedure while using local or general anesthetics.
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