Bone Marrow Biopsy
What If Bone Marrow Biopsy Is Positive?

Does your doctor suspect you have bone marrow cancer? They may recommend you undergo a bone marrow biopsy!

Bone marrow is located in the hollow center of large bones like the hip. It comprises a soft, spongy tissue and a liquid component. The tissue part of bone marrow produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The liquid component of bone marrow comprises maturing blood cells and stem cells.

A bone marrow biopsy is a test in which a small part of the bone marrow is collected using a long needle and evaluated under a microscope to check for abnormal cells. The bone marrow biopsy typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes, often as an outpatient procedure. In some cases, however, the procedure may take longer or require a hospital stay.

Why is a Bone Marrow Biopsy Done?

A bone marrow biopsy offers detailed information about the marrow’s condition and the blood cells. You may require a bone marrow biopsy in the following conditions:

  • To help your doctor diagnose bone marrow cancer or a disease that involves the bone marrow or blood cells
  • To understand the stage, progression, or spread of cancer
  • To determine if iron levels are adequate
  • To monitor a disease
  • To investigate the cause of fever of unknown origin
  • To confirm a diagnosis when other diagnostic test results indicate cancer

A few conditions where bone marrow biopsy is recommended include:

  • Anemia
  • Blood cancers
  • Other blood disorders like leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, thrombocytosis, etc
  • Bone marrow cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Fevers of unknown origin

How is a Bone Marrow Biopsy Performed?

A bone marrow biopsy is usually performed at a clinic or a hospital by an oncologist specializing in blood cancers. The process takes around 10 minutes.

  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown for the procedure, and your vitals, like blood pressure and heart rate, will be checked. 
  • Your doctor will ask you to lie on a comfortable bed on your stomach or sit on your side.
  • A local anesthetic will be applied to the skin and bone to numb the area where the biopsy will be performed.
  • A bone marrow biopsy is often performed on the ridge of your hip or chest bone.
  • You may feel the needle prick while the local anesthetic is injected.
  • Once the anesthesia takes effect, the doctor will make a small cut to allow a hollow needle to pass through your skin and to the bone to collect the marrow.
  • You may feel a dull pain as the needle enters your bone.
  • Once the marrow sample is collected, your doctor will control the bleeding in the area and bandage the incision.
  • Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers to help with discomfort or pain once the anesthesia wears off.

You can leave the clinic as early as 20 minutes after your procedure.

The risk of complications after a bone marrow biopsy is rare. Applying pressure on the incision helps arrest the bleeding. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream to prevent infection of the wound.

What Do Your Bone Marrow Biopsy Results Mean?

Once your bone marrow sample is collected, it is sent to the laboratory for further analysis. A pathologist will evaluate the bone marrow sample under the microscope and note their findings. These findings are then shared with your doctor to arrive at a diagnosis.

Ask your doctor what your results mean.

If your bone marrow biopsy is positive, in most cases means you may have bone marrow cancer as the cells in the sample look abnormal. The biopsy results also include detailed information about the bone cancer cells’ stage, grade, and aggressiveness. This information helps confirm your diagnosis and determine the most effective treatment plan. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend a few additional tests.

The biopsy results may mean different things depending upon the stage of treatment you are in. In some cases, if a biopsy shows the abnormal appearance of cells, your doctor may prescribe additional tests to confirm the diagnosis or determine the best treatment for you.

If you are undergoing treatment for bone cancer, your biopsy results can mean any of the following:

  • How effective is your treatment
  • If your treatment is affecting the health of your bone marrow

The results of your biopsy can take several days or weeks to arrive, and it is natural to feel concerned or worried about them. The bone marrows biopsy result may be complex, and it is best to hear what your doctor says about them.

Final Words

If your doctor suspects bone marrow cancer or cancer of blood cells, they will mostly always prescribe a marrow biopsy to understand your condition better and make a diagnosis.  If your bone marrows biopsy results are positive, it is best to discuss it with your oncologist and understand what it means for you and how it affects your diagnosis and treatment plan.

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