CANCER EXPERIENCE: The Bone Marrow Biopsy

What can a person about to undergo a bone marrow biopsy expect from the procedure? Does it hurt? Does it take a long time?

Below, our awesome users weigh in on the subject. Feel free to make any additions in the comments below, to help others facing this procedure feel more confident going into it. Thanks!

You can find the original thread here



I won't lie to you, mine hurt. However, having said that, the pathologist that performed it had the sensitivity of lineoleum and was easy on the medaz (the pain killer and sedative they generally use). By the time I had asked for more, the procedure was over. The area ached for one to two days after and the site developed a little scab over the top as it healed.


My 21 year old daughter had one done last week. The nurses told me ahead of time to request that she be sedated. They referred to it as conscience sedation. I stood in the room while they performed a neck biopsy and bone marrow biopsy. She has no recollection of that procedure. She did not complain of discomfort afterwards. I would INSIST that they sedate you. There is no reason to start this journey off by being in pain.


I have had 4 bone marrow biopsies. The first was 3 yrs ago and I was more freaked out before the procedure than I was during. Thank goodness my dr was a proponent of morphine because it is a very painful procedure. Yes, there was pain,and morphine made me vomit, but it wasn't unbearable. Word of caution, if someone is going to be with, they should not be too freaked out by very large needles.


I had a very easy time also. The anticipation was far worse than the actual procedure. I had a small amount of morphine and felt alot of pressure, but very little pain. My hip was slightly sore around the site, but that disappeared within a day or two. The doctor kept me mentally occupied during the biopsy by asking me how and where I met my husband. We all got a little silly. It helped.


He says "I agree with Vikki and Pete. Bone marrow biopsy is not bad at all. My doc also kept me mentally occupied and that helped. I have to admit, I was sore for a couple of weeks but that's not a big deal.


I have had two bone marrow procedures. I relaxed, put my mind in a really good place, concentrated on the words of a song, and it didn't hurt. REALLY! I never felt it. My Dr. thinks because I didn't tense up that it made things easier for him and for me. Good luck. Smile and relax.


I had one bone marrow test. I received all "optional" pain meds, and it was not bad at all. The procedure is somewhat primitive, but it is short, and I had no after-pain or trouble thereafter at all. In the big picture of cancer treatment, it is not that big a deal.

My bone marrow extraction, too, was not so bad. It was done by a nurse, in fact. It was nine months ago, but that seems like an eternity now.

I had one bone marrow test, prior to my first infusion. It was almost exactly a year ago. Mine was negative. It was not any great ordeal, and I do not recall any pain following it, at least nothing significant.

I have never heard of a bone marrow test being overturned with differing results, at least within a short period of time. Also, it is a massively expensive test, and both doctors and insurance companies are not likely to run another without a strong clinical reason to do so.

Somewhat interestingly to me, after I got an "all clean" after my final treatment (from C-T, PET, and blood results) my doc told me that the protocol for my strain of HL did NOT call for an after-treatment bone marrow test.


I was a basket case in anticipation of my bone marrow biopsy. I requested and got a prescription for anti-anxiety meds which I took the night before and the morning of the bone marrow biopsy. I asked the Dr. to give me max doses of the Lidocaine, as even for dental work I need 3-4 novacaines. The Dr. and her nurse talked to me through the whole procedure, kept my mind off it...I was anticipating horror...

It was NOT! My Dr. waited till the Lidocaine kicked in, then gave me more. She is very gentle and caring. I felt pressure, and just one twinge...the worst was getting the Lidocaine itself, feels like a bee sting...but doesn't last long...I had no side effects, no soreness afterwards, no black and blue...nada.


I had one done and it was painful. I didn't get sedated but probably could have. The thing to remember is that it is over in a few minutes. I was sore from it for a few weeks like I had a bad bruise, but it is doable.


I did exactly what Geri did and it was not that bad! :) They gave me a bit of freezing (as I recall, I know I didn't take any pain meds) and it's just an odd sensation rather than a painful one (I found anyways)..and I'm no tough guy I have a very low pain threshold and am very anxious when it comes to procedures.

I took slow deep breaths, thought of being on some tropical beach and tried to think of the lyrics to a country song I like. It was over quicker than I thought it would be! :)


I had 1 hip biopsy with just a local injection at the site of the biopsy-I felt pressure & minor pain but over quickly, drove home and had no problems I also had 2 bone biopsies at the L3 vertabra with conscious sedation because it very important one does not move, with no pain & no problems. After all 3 biopsies the only feeling at the site of entry was no more than if you had a shot.

It would probaly be a better experince if you asked for conscious sedation-you will need some one to drive you home after the procedure-you are awake and can walk etc. it's just not safe for you to drive.


My friend was allowed to stay with me after begging for more morphine. of coarse i was denied of it. I am very grateful she was there. She held my hand. I thought they would just go in, extract, and go right out. But NOoooOOooOOooooOOo they were in there doing stuff, what????... I dont know. yes it hurt, but my Doctor was wonderful and worked with me instead of going in and just getting what he wanted. After pulling out he realized he didnt get enough bone marrow and he had to go back in. yes I had it done twice in a session. took about 30 to 40 minutes.

I must admit, I did tear up and cried when they just were numbing me. I was so afraid. yes it hurt. But when it was over i said, oh it was not that bad. Like delivering a baby, it hurts but once you deliver you think, oh its not that bad.

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RDHandMomof2's picture

I'm 39. Told this test will likely come back fine, but wanting to put the issue of high platelet counts to rest once and for all. The procedure was done in the office. No pain or medication given at all. I did take 3 Ibuprophen before I left for my appointment. The MD did a wonderful job of being sure I was properly numbed with lidocaine injections...which took the bulk of the appointment. I honestly did not have pain at all. As the anestetic is wearing off, it feels a little funny near my tailbone area, but the biopsy was far easier than I'd imagine. I was on my side, it felt as I was getting massage mostly, which I contribute to Dr. Patel's fantastic technique, after reading some of the posts. At my consult, the oncologist ask me to promise not to read up on the procedure or watch videos of it beforehand, which was great advice! Piece of waiting for results may be the hardest part. Good luck to all and relax and stop reading scary stuff before your test, please :)

po18guy's picture

Compared with the enemy that is being diagnosed, the bone marrow biopsy is small potatoes. Oh, it can be a little unpleasant during the aspiration, but that lasts a second or two. For my first biopsy, I was under in a procedure room, but I was sore for a couple of weeks following. The second time, my current oncologist rolled up his sleeves and performed it in a clinic room with me being fully conscious, giving me a fentanyl "lollipop" as a pain killer. That made it easier, even though he had to go back in a second time because the bone plug did not come out with the needle the first time. Even so, I was not sore after that one. If anyone is afraid of cancer, they should not be afraid of a bone marrow biopsy.

"AngioImmunoblastic-like" Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma -
Not Otherwise Specified (unknown sub-type)
Stage 4B, "innumerable" nodes + bone marrow involvement. Dx 07/08.
Immediate relapse post-chemo. 4 year remission on Romidepsin/Istodax.

Michele-pa's picture


Blessings,Michele Dx95 Follicular NHL3

cbpgill26's picture

I read a bundle of posts by nurses who had witnessed the procedure. They all said not to take it without anesthesia. I raised cane at MD Anderson when I had mine. They told me no one there ever had pain and they did not know how the other facilites did it but their's was painless. BULL IT IS PAINFUL SOME EXCRUCIATING. I RAISED ENOUGH CANE INCLUDING CRYING AND THEY PUT ME TO SLEEP ALL THE WAY. I WAS AWAKEND IN SECONDS ONE SLIGHTLY SORE HIP. DON'T BE STUPID STAND YOUR GROUND AND YEP, SOME OF THESE DOCS. TECHS. DOING IT ARE COLD AS LINOLEUM. I REQUEST ALL THESE FOLKS DOING BIOPSYS HAVE THIS PROCEDURE WIDE AWAKE AND SEE HOW IT IS. THEY WILL OFFER ANESTHESIA!!!!!!!!!!

GraceLynn's picture

WISH I READ THIS BEFORE I HAD MINE! First appt. with Oncologist/Hematologist, he told me he would need to do bone marrow biopsy so he could see if I had cancer in bone marrow. Completely unsuspecting, he began procedure, never offering me anything or warning me of anything. I let the tears flow as he rocked me back and forth pushing painfully. Then he tells me that he will have to do it AGAIN because he wasn't able to extract enough marrow for the slides. After a total of three of these in a row I was a shaking mess. Absolutely Barbaric without even a local, especially more than once!

May God Bless You Always

cbpgill26's picture

I read all the comments on bone biopsies that it is bearable and not too bad. But go and type in anything about nurse's who witness biopsies. I found several sites and they were very ADAMANT about this huge needle being awful and not to do it un-sedated. So, thrilled no one else seemed to have much trouble, however at MD Anderson many who were there had suffered! I spoke with people one on one. So if you do it again you say NOT without anesthesia. Find someone who will be humane and give it to you. I would choose the same road again. Sorry this happened to you. I had a spelling error, sorry. I meant to say BAD neuropathy in my feet and hands. My feet got numb yet can feel ice cold and extreme heat and sometimes pain misery walking that sometimes has me crying. My hands got a little. I take a med. for it but it is not a cure called lyrica which helps the cold and hot feelings fairly well but the numbness is always there. It helps so you can get around but it makes you dizzy and sleepy. Worth the effects to give you some relief. This does not happen to everyone and depends on the type of chemo you had. I had some pretty tough chemo R-Chop. I was stage 2A. Your description of yours I am not clear on. I do know that the last three treatments were awful for me too. I was sooooooooooo weak and could barely walk. Nausea was not an issue for me but I had no appetite inspite of the Predisone steroid that blew me up like a dead fish. My mood swings were from hell it does that to you. I too had aggressive HNL. One node in my neck went from a small node to a almost hanging huge thing in the two weeks at MD Anderson in Houston to get a second prognosis. When we got home to the small town we live in my onocologist flipped and said, "MY GOD THIS STUFF IS AGGRESSIVE" Next thing I knew I was getting a port and put in treatment at the clinic not at the hospital. Two treatments proved it was still there. Four and it was in complete remission. He chose to do two more rounds to catch strays. I had six in all. 14 Aug. was my last round. I went from this date to yesterday 22Jan. about 5 mths. before I had another scan and that was yesterday. I was ill going and shaking. The tech was so sorry for me he told me right after he thought I would be pleased with the results. That gave me assurance till the doctor called an said. "Hey beautiful healthy body." So for now another 5 mth wait and see. Those mths. are hard. If this junk comes back it usually does within two years. But, it can come back period as it is not like Hodgkins/without the NON in front of it which there is a cure. Ours is more remission to if it returns a different chemo and hopefully remission agian. They can still treat it if it comes back but the chemo can be un-effective. So, I live in prayer and praying it stays at bay a long time. MOre chemo would sink me. Of course I am bald with a little hair now! I too had low white counts during chemo. About three mths. out of chemo I felt awful shaking, cold, fever and headache from hell. I went to the doc. and it was back no white cell count. The ER doc. said it was not common to have this happen so many mths. after chemo. Well it did to me. The ER doc. not friendly said could be leukemia as chemo can kill the bone marrow and you could never produce white cells on your on. That made me hysterical. AFter for days of hositalization my first it came back up with shots. Two weeks later another blood test and it was fine. He said he thought it was me holding my own and not the shots of neulasta he gave me two weeks prior holding the count up. GOD LETS PRAY SO ALL I NEED IS LEUKEMIA TOO. THIS **** CHEMO CAN RUIN YOUR BODY. I had mouth sores too lots of diarheaa and in general weakenss. Four mths. out I am back on my feet and pretty much doing everything I use to do. Seems this agressive type in spite of being aggressive responds quickly to chemo! I will worry daily about the white Cell count till I see the chemo doc. on Friday of next week. I hope the white cells are holding on their own. If so I am going to head for Colorado for a week and get away from these medical things all together. You need to ask a lot of questions. Stage and A or B and if you have a cancer marker. These are numbers that can sort of tell if you have more cancer cells when you are out of chemo. They go up is my understanding if there is a problem. Being older and test getting ready to be withheld from older folks I was told because I am 69 Medicare may not pay again for a PET scan. I may be depending on these blood cancer markers alone. SCARY as they are very undependable. I was so afraid when I heard that. Pet Scans are the best way to detect this stuff. No matter how old or young you want to live. Hang in dear and please let me know how it goes. Tough road but you are stronger then you think. OH, I had to have Muga scans twice to see if my heart could stand the chemo and one to see if it did any damage. So far it did not! One blessing! I suffer from A Fib from time to time another rotten malady. I take strong drugs for it and so far a year without it. Thank God it did not happen in treatment I would have just crumbled. My treatments for chemo were every three weeks or approx. 21 days sounds like yours. Let me know how you are and I will be here for you. So glad you wrote back. You will go in remission, complete remission if your taking R-Chop you will likely get free of this disease. How many treatments have you had?Your age makes a big difference in long term remission. My odds not as good to hang in a long time because of age. God Bless and try and have a good day. I know it is hard. I had breast cancer is 03 now this!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who can understand it. lol

GraceLynn's picture

Thank you so much for sharing all this with me! I am so grateful to have someone to talk to that has been through this. I am so upset because the Oncologist I have been seeing is refusing to give me any more chemo. I have only had 3 treatments so far and the last one was almost 5 wks out because he was on vacation! I didn't get to have RCHOP either, which I heard was best..he only gave me 3 out of the 4 chemicals of RCHOP because he was worried my heart could not take that last chemical so he skipped it comepletely (I didn't like him much and am working on getting into cancer center. The soonest the cancer center can even see me is the 19th. The last bloodwork I had showed red blood cells still off along with platelets and hemoglobin. He was mad at me for wanting a second opinion. Told him I thought that everyone was supposed to get that and he said I should have come to him and had him refer me to someone if I wanted a second opinion! What a creep! I was so upset yesterday, because I have been hoping to get ahead of this cancer and to be very honest with you - so far, I have been far sicker from the cancer than I have been from the chemo. That may sound strange, but it's true. I was terribly sick before even first chemo, had severe kidney pain for quite some time (they found "lesions" in right kidney first), then night sweats, severe nausea and weakness that rendered me almost incapacitated. I am convinced that is where my particular cancer started, but they couldn't take biopsies of "lesions" because they were located dead center of kidney where they couldn't reach them with needle. It is not uncommon to have cancer begin in kidney and the spread to either Lymph system or liver. That's what I think happened to me. Didn't get diagnosed with lymphoma, though until I felt small lump on right side down by groin area. I just don't find that "coincidental." Either way, I am going to hope and pray for more chemo because I am pretty positive cancer is not gone because of how I FEEL. Awful. Already getting night sweats, nausea, and weakness back again. The only reprieve I have had is what I get after first week of the worst of chemo effects, I get about 2 1/2 weeks of feeling pretty good before the cancer kicks back in and I am weak, CONSTANTLY green with nausea and the kidney pain worsens, and the night sweats get more frequent. I cannot stand the thought of sliding backwards somemore and to be honest, I am petrified of it. It is BY FAR the sickest I have ever felt in my whole life (and I have had some pretty bad medical issues of my lifetime. I have had a whopping 27 surgeries years before this cancer.
And yes, I understand how awful A-fib is...I take 250mgs of Flecainide for it. Suffered two strokes 6 years ago from it. My pacemaker is not in for that, though, it's in because about 6 mos. ago I was found on garage floor in heart failure so they had to put in a dual chamber pacemaker for heart failure. I am suspicious that the cancer brought on heart failure before it was diagnosed..that is what killed my father when I was a little girl, heart failure brought on by cancer. I am blessed to have gotten the pacer in time...GOD IS GOOD AND MERCIFUL TO ME and I have to keep the faith. Times like this I find it imperative.
I am discouraged though...very discouraged. Oncologist told me to call him in 6 mos if I find any more lumps! Wow. Didn't even schedule any more appointments for me...not for blood, not for scans, and not to check for anything. I walked out saying "oh, I am just SO happy that I am CURED!!" When in essense I meant "oh, I am just so sick of idiots that call themselves Doctors!!! Seems like when a patient is on "medicare only" like us, we don't seem to get much "care" at all. What a shame. What means the very most to me is that I am left this sick and in this much pain, not sure how I can handle much longer like this. It's been tough for too long already!
Please write back if you have any suggestions or feedback...I'd really appreciate it and thank you so much for being so helpful to me already!!!

May God Bless You Always

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