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Had a cervical lymph node excisional biopsy done last Friday. How long should I wait for the results?

Posts: 1
Joined: Nov 2018

The waiting is killing me. They have ruled out all autoimmune diseases as the possible reason why my lymph node on the right side of my neck has been 3.5 cm by 2.2 cm and growing slowly but steadily bigger over the last 4 months. I have many concerning symptoms, the most concerning is that I was diagnosed with sepsis in June 2018, but a definitive source of infection couldn't be found. I was in the hospital for 6 days. I have this intense itch all over, and livedo reticularis all over my body. I just want the results. It isn't doing any favors for my already fragile mental health . Any insight on how long, on average, the wait is for results for an excisional biopsy would be greatly appreciated.



Posts: 962
Joined: Nov 2011

Because only a tiny fraction of them have been identified. The same with viruses. There are millions of viruses that are unknown. Only a few thousand have been described. It does not have to be cancer. One way of retaning your sanity is to memorize the motto:

"You do not have cancer until a pathology report says you have cancer."

Call the lab and ask them what their turnaroud time is on node biopsies.

Max Former Hodgkins Stage 3's picture
Max Former Hodg...
Posts: 3123
Joined: May 2012

Jamie, the wait on biopsy results varies a lot.  I have always been told to come back "in a week," but this was probably more about scheduling the doctor than required lab time.

Labs, staffing, and the complexity of the samples all effect time required.  Confusing slides will cause pathologists to do second checks or ask for another doctor to review the diagnosis. Smaller depatments may have virtually never encountered some very rare T-cell or other types of disease.

It is best to just wait. Calling will not expedite anything.  Be sure to get a paper copy of your results, which any doctor can provide on the spot. And ask the oncologist how "clear" or definitive the diagnosis is.  Usually, initial diagnoses are correct, but highly unusual results usually recommend second opinions from prominent, nationwide cancer centers, like MD Anderson or Johns Hopkins Hospital.  But this is usually not a necessity.


Posts: 251
Joined: May 2017

Analysis of a lymph node biopsy will be a multi-step process.  Some of it will take one to two days.  But the detailed staining for cell markers and any DNA analysis will take longer, typically a week or more.  Also, samples may need to be sent out to a lab which can add to the timing. 

Your doctor is not going to want to report out partial results. That is probably a good idea.  So, "at least a week" is a reasonable amount of time to expect to wait.  In my experience, at least. Hard to wait, believe me I know, but best to have a thorough and complete analysis. Do follow Max's advice about getting a paper copy of the pathologist's report.

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