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How Your Doctor Does a Biopsy to Check for Leukemia

If your doctor thinks you might have leukemia, you will have a special kind of biopsy. For it, your doctor needs a small sample of bone marrow and bone.

This is done with a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. During this procedure, the doctor takes samples from the bones of your hips, or less often from your breastbone. Before making a small cut in the skin, the doctor numbs the area with a local anesthetic, which you usually get as an injection. Then the doctor inserts a thin, hollow needle to remove a small amount of liquid bone marrow. You may need to have this done on both hips. Next, the doctor uses a larger needle to remove a solid piece of bone and marrow. Even with anesthesia, you may feel uncomfortable as the doctor removes the marrow and bone. After he or she has removed the marrow and bone, the doctor sends the bone marrow samples to a lab where a specialist doctor, called a pathologist, checks them for leukemia cells. It may take a few days for the results to come back. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/3/2014
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