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Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

A fine needle aspiration (FNA) is when your doctor uses a fine needle to take a sample of cells from the lump. It is used in some specialist hospitals.

What happens?

This procedure is usually no more uncomfortable than a blood test. You can have a local anaesthetic injection before the needle aspiration.

Your doctor puts a thin needle into the lump. If this is near the surface of your body and easy to get to, your doctor probably just feels it to guide the needle in. If the lump is deeper or hard to feel, your doctor uses an ultrasound scan or CT scan to guide the needle into the right place.

Your doctor sucks out some fluid from the lump into a syringe. The fluid contains cells. A specialist (pathologist) then looks at the cells under a microscope.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. 

Waiting for results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Information and help