What is a biopsy?
A biopsy is a more detailed examination of a sample of tissue taken from the body. The doctor should recommend a biopsy when the initial examination indicates that the area of body tissue is not normal. Doctors call an area of abnormal tissue a lesion, tumor, or mass.
Types of biopsy
Needle biopsy: Most biopsies are needle biopsies, which means that the needle is used to access suspicious tissue.
CT-guided biopsy: The CT scan images can help doctors determine the exact location of the needle in the target tissue.
Ultrasound-guided biopsy: An ultrasound scanner can help the doctor redirect a needle to an ulcer.
Bone biopsy: Bone biopsy is used for bone cancer. This can be done using a CT scan technique or by an orthopedic surgeon.
Bone marrow biopsy: A large needle is used to insert the bone marrow into the pelvic bone. It detects blood diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Liver biopsy: A needle is inserted into the liver through the skin of the abdomen and captures the liver tissue.
Kidney biopsy: Similar to a liver biopsy, a needle is inserted into the kidney through the skin on the back.
Aspiration biopsy: A needle extracts material from the dough. This simple method is also known as fine-needle aspiration.
Prostate biopsy: Several needle biopsies are taken simultaneously from the prostate gland. To reach the prostate, a tube is inserted into the rectum.
Surgical biopsy: Open or laparoscopic surgery may be required to obtain a biopsy of the tissue. A piece of tissue or an entire lump of tissue may be removed.
Risks factors of biopsy
This procedure is generally safe and causes fewer injuries.
- Accidental injury to adjacent structures such as the lung parenchyma during intestinal or kidney during an abdominal biopsy
Purpose of biopsy
If you have symptoms that are generally associated with cancer and your doctor finds an area of concern, you may need a test to determine if the area is cancerous. It is the only way to diagnose most cancers. Imaging tests, such as CT scans and X-rays, can help identify areas of concern, but they cannot differentiate between cancer and non-cancer cells.
Biopsies are often associated with cancer, but just because your doctor ordered this procedure, it does not mean you have cancer. Doctors use biopsies to check if abnormalities in your body are due to cancer or other conditions.
Preparing for a biopsy
How to prepare for the procedure depends on the type of disease you have. For example, there are no large preparations for a fine needle biopsy in the doctor’s office. In some cases, you may need to take your clothes off and put on a dress.
Ask your doctor or nurse if you can eat or drink before the test. Also, take clarification on the regular usage of medicines. For some biopsies, your doctor may want to know if you are thinning your blood or taking aspirin. The doctor should be informed about the history and current use of medicines.
Tell your doctor about any drug allergies or other medical conditions you may have. A member of your healthcare team will explain the procedure to you. You will be asked to sign a consent form stating that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of it and that you agree to perform the test. Visit the doctor if any problem is faced.
The doctor will perform a biopsy based on the part of your body where you may be lying on your stomach or on your back or sitting during the procedure. For some types of biopsies, you may need to hold your breath while the needle is inserted. Your healthcare team will let you know in advance what to expect in the process.
Before the procedure, you will usually receive a form of anesthesia to prevent the perception of pain. The anesthesia procedure used by the doctor depends on the type of procedure.
The following types can be used:
Local anesthesia: Local anesthesia is an injection that numbs the area where the procedure is done. You may feel a sting when your doctor injects a local anesthetic through a needle.
Conscious anesthesia: Conscious anesthesia care Medicines are used to relax you. It is usually given through an intravenous (IV) tube and is often combined with local or regional anesthesia.
General anesthesia: General anesthesia during a major procedure, such as surgery, will knock you out. If you are under regular anesthesia, you may not be aware of this procedure.
After taking a tissue sample, your doctor will need to evaluate it. In some cases, this can be done during the diagnostic process. However, in most cases, the sample must be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Once the results come in, your doctor may call you to share the results or ask you to come to the next appointment to discuss the next steps. If the results show signs of cancer, your doctor can determine the type of cancer and the level of aggression from your biopsy. If your biopsy is done for a cause other than cancer, the lab report should be able to guide your doctor in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
Even if the results are negative, if the doctor’s suspicion of cancer or other conditions remains high, you may need another biopsy or a different type of biopsy. Your doctor will be able to guide you on the best course to follow. If you have any questions about it or the results before the procedure, do not hesitate to speak with your doctor. You may want to write down your questions and bring them to your next office visit.
Analysis and biopsy results
Once your doctor obtains a tissue sample, it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. It can be chemically treated or frozen and bisected into thin sections. Sections are placed on glass slides, stained to increase contrast, and studied under a microscope. The results can help your doctor determine if the cells are cancerous. If the cells are cancerous, results can tell your doctor where the cancer is – the type of cancer.
It can also help your doctor determine how aggressive your cancer is – cancer grade. The grade is sometimes expressed as a number on a scale of 1 to 4 and is determined by how the cancer cells look under a microscope.
Low-grade (grade 1) cancers are generally less aggressive, and high-grade (grade 4) cancers are generally more aggressive. This information can help guide treatment options. Other specialized tests on cancer cells can help guide treatment options.
In some cases, such as during surgery, a pathologist will immediately examine the sample and deliver the results to your surgeon within minutes. But in most cases, the results of it will be available in a few days. Some samples take longer to analyze. Ask your doctor how long to wait for your biopsy results.
Most biopsies only require local anesthesia, which means you don’t have to stay in the hospital overnight. However, an overnight stay is sometimes required when performing a biopsy under general anesthesia. Most types of biopsies are painless once the anesthesia begins to work, although it depends on where the sample was taken.
You may experience a dull ache, which can be treated with pain relievers as recommended by your doctor or surgeon. For some types, it takes a few hours in the hospital. You will need to put on stitches or get dressed before you go.
Needle biopsy is a reliable method of obtaining tissue samples to help determine whether the nodule is benign (not cancerous) or malignant.
- It is less aggressive than open or closed surgical biopsies, and both involve a large incision in the skin.
- In general, the procedure is not painful and the results are accurate when the tissue sample is surgically removed.
- Recovery time is short and patients can resume normal activities soon.
- Any procedure that involves cutting of the skin carries a risk of infection. The risk of infection that requires antibiotic treatment is less than one in 1,000.