A biopsy involves taking a sample of tissue from the neck mass. This sample of tissue is looked at under the microscope by a pathologist (a specialized doctor), to make a diagnosis. A biopsy is a common test to check for cancer. There are different types of biopsies that can be done. The type of biopsy performed is based on your history and the location of your mass.
Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNA)
An FNA is the best initial test to diagnose a neck mass. A small needle is put into the mass and tissue is pulled out. An FNA is often done in your doctor’s office. It is well-tolerated by most patients. Risks include:
A core biopsy is another way to diagnose a neck mass. A core biopsy may be done instead of or after an FNA. A core biopsy uses a slightly larger needle and gets a larger piece of tissue. It is well tolerated and has a low risk of complications. Risks include:
An open biopsy is another way to diagnose a neck mass. It is a more invasive procedure. Open biopsy is done by a surgeon in the operating room and you will need anesthesia. An open biopsy may remove only portion of the mass or the whole mass. Because open biopsies are more invasive, there is a higher risk for complications. Risks include:
If you need an open biopsy your provider will tell you how to prepare. For any biopsy, let your provider know if you take blood thinners or have bleeding problems.
Your medical provider should call you or set up a follow-up appointment within one week of your biopsy. If you do not get your results after one week, you should call your medical provider.
Pynnonen, MA, Gillespie, MB, Rosenfeld RM, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Evaluation of the Neck Mass in Adult. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017; 157(2 Suppl):S1-S30.