A biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue or cells. A pathologist examines the sample under a microscope.
A biopsy may be taken from any part of the body.
A biopsy is used to see if the cells from a sample of tissue are abnormal. Often, a biopsy is done to rule out cancer and/or to specify its type and level of aggressiveness.
Biopsies are sometimes taken to find out the cause of an unexplained:
Common interpretations of biopsies include:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
If you will be having general anesthesia, avoid eating or drinking after midnight.
The type used depends on what you are having biopsied:
For a simple biopsy, the area will be cleaned. A numbing medicine will be injected into the area so that you will not feel pain. A piece of tissue or skin will then be removed. The opening will be closed.
The procedure that your doctor uses depends on the type of biopsy that you are having. For example:
A simple biopsy usually takes a few minutes. A biopsy involving surgery takes longer.
You will have pain in the area where the sample was removed. Your doctor may give you pain medicine.
If you have a simple biopsy, you will be able to go home. If your biopsy involved surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for 1-2 days.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
American Cancer Society
National Library of Medicine
BC Cancer Agency
Biopsy. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003416.htm. Updated November 2008. Accessed July 24, 2009.
Biopsy. Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/sitemap/modal-alias.cfm?modal=biop. Accessed July 24, 2009.
Biopsy procedures used to diagnose cancer. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/biopsy/CA00083. Updated April 2009. Accessed July 24, 2009.
Diagnosis. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/overview/page7. Accessed July 24, 2009.
Schoonjans JM, Brem RF. Fourteen-gauge ultrasonographically guided core-needle biopsy of breast masses. J Ultrasound Med. 2001;20:967-972.
Last reviewed October 2009 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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