Overview of biopsy
A biopsy is a medical procedure that takes a small sample of tissue so that it can be examined under a microscope. Tissue samples can be taken from almost any part of the body, including the skin, stomach, kidneys, liver, and lungs. The term biopsy is often used to refer to the process of sampling and sampling tissue.
In some cases, your doctor may decide that a sample of your tissue or cells is needed to help diagnose a disease or help diagnose cancer. The removal of tissue or cells for analysis is called a biopsy.
Although this may seem scary, it is important to remember that most are completely painless and low-risk procedures. Depending on your condition, part of the tissue, organ, or tumor may be surgically removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
What is a biopsy used for?
Biopsies can help investigate the cause of a person’s symptoms or diagnose many health conditions. When a condition has already been diagnosed, a biopsy can be used to measure how severe or stage it is. For example, the results show the severity of the inflammation of the liver-like organ.
Why are biopsies done?
Biopsies are most often done to look for cancer. But biopsies can help identify many other conditions. A biopsy might be recommended whenever there is an important medical question the biopsy could help answer. Here are just a few examples:
- A mammogram shows a lump or mass, indicating the possibility of breast cancer.
- A mole on the skin has changed shape recently and melanoma is possible.
- A person has chronic hepatitis and it’s important to know if cirrhosis is present.
In some cases, a biopsy of normal-appearing tissue may be done. This can help check for cancer spread or rejection of a transplanted organ. In most cases, it is done to diagnose a problem or to help determine the best therapy option.
Types of biopsies
There are many different kinds of biopsies. Nearly all of them involve using a sharp tool to remove a small amount of tissue. If the biopsy will be on the skin or other sensitive area, numbing medicine is applied first.
Here are some types of biopsies:
- CT-guided biopsy. A person rests in a CT-scanner, the scanner’s images help doctors determine the exact position of the needle in the targeted tissue.
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy. An ultrasound scanner helps a doctor direct the needle into the lesion.
- Bone biopsy. It is used to look for cancer of the bones. This may be performed via the CT scan technique or by an orthopedic surgeon.
- Bone marrow biopsy. A large needle is used to enter the pelvis bone to collect bone marrow. This detects blood diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma.
- Liver biopsy. A needle is injected into the liver through the skin on the belly, capturing liver tissue.
- Kidney biopsy. A needle is injected through the skin on the back, into the kidney.
How to prepare for a biopsy
Biopsies do not require the patient’s bowel preparation, clear liquid foods, or anything by mouth. Your doctor will prescribe what to do before the procedure. As always before a medical procedure, tell your doctor what medications you are taking. You can stop taking certain medications before the test, such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
What to expect from your biopsy
Biopsies vary depending on how difficult it is to obtain tissue. The medical term for this is “invasiveness.”
A minimally invasive biopsy (eg, most skin biopsies) can be done in the hospital during the same visit that the lesion was found. Numbness medicine makes the process of a small injection of the medicine almost painless.
More invasive biopsies may be done in the hospital, and surgical center. You will make a special appointment for a biopsy. In most cases, sedatives and pain relievers are given, which reduce discomfort. You will not be able to drive after taking these medications.
You may have a sore throat for a few days at the biopsy site. If you have significant pain, your doctor may prescribe appropriate pain relievers.
What happens after a biopsy?
Once the tissue is collected and preserved, it is handed over to the pathologist. Doctors who specialize in diagnosing conditions based on tissue samples and other tests. (In some cases, the doctor collecting the sample can diagnose the condition.)
A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope. In most cases, a pathologist can diagnose the problem by looking at the type, shape, and internal activity of cells in the tissue.
The time to get the biopsy results varies. During surgery, a pathologist can read the report, and back to the surgeon within minutes. Final, highly accurate test findings usually take a week or more. You will follow up with your GP to discuss the results.