Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: February 3, 2012
Bone marrow is a spongy substance found inside our large bones, such as the femur (thigh), hips, and ribs. It is made up of cells called hematopoietic stem cells. Hematopoietic stem cells are "baby" cells that grow up to become either white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. The bone marrow acts as a greenhouse for these cells, growing them and storing them until they are needed. Unfortunately, sometimes cancer cells can find their way into the bone marrow, making it difficult for the marrow to do its job of producing healthy blood cells.
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are tests to check the function of your bone marrow or to check for the presence of cancer cells. Bone marrow aspiration involves using a needle to take a sample of bone marrow fluid from inside the bone. Bone marrow biopsy involves using a needle to take a small sample of the bone and marrow. These samples are then examined under a microscope. This may be done before therapy to assess the condition of the marrow or after treatment to assess the response to treatment.
The procedure is done by a physician or nurse practitioner in your hospital room or in the outpatient clinic. The area used for a bone marrow aspirati on is the hip or breast bone. The area used for the bone marrow biopsy is your hip. You will be asked to lay on your stomach or side, so the area can be reached easily. Your nurse practitioner or doctor will explain the procedure as it is performed, but these are the steps, so you will know what to expect.
Please do not hesitate to ask your doctor or nurse if you have any additional questions.
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