If your doctor has recommended you undergo a biopsy, you may have all kinds of questions about the procedure.
While it’s natural to feel worried about an upcoming biopsy, it’s helpful to know that biopsies are generally simple procedures, and most are entirely painless. This article details the most common types of biopsy and explains what to expect during the process, and in the days that follow it.
What Is A Biopsy?
A biopsy is a medical test in which a tiny sample of tissue is removed from your body. It is then examined to help your doctors determine whether the tissue is healthy.
Why Are Biopsies Done?
Biopsies are not only useful in diagnosing disease and guiding treatment options without the use of surgery, but they also are essential in detecting diseases such as cancer. Biopsies can also be used to find out what stage a condition has reached when abnormal cells have been found, and to more accurately diagnose a disease that doctors are already aware of, for example when performing a liver biopsy.
Types Of Biopsies
The type of biopsy you might undergo will vary greatly depending on the part of the body your doctor needs to examine. During an open biopsy, a doctor will take a small piece of organ or tissue by cutting a small
opening in your skin.
- An open biopsy will sometimes be performed under a local anesthetic but could require a general anesthetic and stitches if the examined body part is not close to the skin.
- A closed biopsy involves removing a tiny amount of tissue through a needle. This procedure is minimally invasive, and you will usually be able to undergo a closed biopsy with only a local anesthetic.
- A breast core biopsy is performed in this way to examine a lump or area of concern found during an ultrasound or X-ray. Computerized tomography, x-ray or ultrasound might be used by your doctor to help locate the exact spot to be biopsied, such as in fine needle aspiration, a form of needle biopsy which is used to take samples of tissues in the lung or chest.
- Internal biopsies use a flexible tube with a telescopic lens attached, called an endoscope, to guide the surgeon in removing tissue from an organ without the need for surgery.
What To Expect
For most biopsies, you won’t need to prepare in any way, although patients may be asked to fast before certain biopsies, such as biopsies of the lungs or gastrointestinal tract. Some biopsies, such as liver biopsies, will require blood tests beforehand, and your doctor might ask you to pause any medicine you have been prescribed. Patients undergoing a breast core biopsy will be asked not to wear deodorant on the day, as this can make diagnosis more difficult.
What Happens Afterward?
Biopsies are generally safe, and infection caused by a biopsy is rare. Afterward, you may experience some bruising and soreness at the site of the biopsy for a short time. Occasionally, complications can arise, although this is very uncommon. Rarely, an organ can be perforated during a biopsy, requiring surgery. Specialized types of biopsy, such as fine needle aspiration of the lung, can lead to complications such as air around the lung (known as
pneumothorax), requiring treatment.
After your biopsy the tissue sample will be examined in a pathology laboratory, to identify normal and abnormal cells. You can expect to receive your results in a day or two.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.