A biopsy is a medical procedure that removes cells from the body for examination. Medical professionals may take skin, organs, or other body tissue samples. There are several types of biopsies, including fine-needle aspiration, core needle biopsy, and incisional biopsy.
What are biopsies used for? Medical professionals may perform a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis, determine the cause of a specific condition, or assess whether a treatment works. For example, a biopsy may be used to:
- Check for cancerous cells: A biopsy can be used to check for the presence of cancerous cells, which is often the case when a mass or lump is found during a physical exam or imaging test.
- Determine the type of cancer: There are different types of cancer, and each type responds differently to a treatment. A biopsy can help doctors determine which type of cancer is present to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
- Assess whether treatment is working: A biopsy may also see if cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, is working.
- Examine tissue damage caused by an infection: In some cases, a biopsy may examine tissue damage caused by an infection, such as hepatitis.
- Investigate the cause of an organ transplant rejection: A biopsy may investigate the cause of an organ transplant rejection.
- Diagnose a heart condition: A biopsy may also diagnose a heart condition, such as cardiomyopathy.
A biopsy is often the only way to make a definite diagnosis. In some cases, multiple biopsies may be needed.
There are several types of biopsies, including fine-needle aspiration, core needle biopsy, and incisional biopsy.
The type of biopsy performed will depend on the location and nature of the tissue to be sampled. An FNA biopsy can often be performed in a doctor’s office or clinic. A core needle biopsy and incisional biopsy are typically performed in a hospital setting.
Before the procedure, you will be asked to sign a consent form. You may be given a sedative to help you relax. Professionals will cleanse the area of concern with an antiseptic solution, and local anesthesia may be used to numb the area.
During the procedure, the doctor will insert a needle into the area of concern and withdraw cells or tissue. The doctor will send the sample to a laboratory for examination. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.
After the procedure, medical professionals will monitor you for any reactions to the anesthesia. You may experience some soreness and bruise at the biopsy site. These side effects should resolve within a few days.
While biopsies are generally safe, there are certain risks associated with the procedure. These risks include:
- Bleeding: There is a risk of bleeding from the biopsy site. This bleeding may be mild or require medical attention.
- Infection: There is also a risk of infection at the biopsy site. Symptoms of an infection include fever, redness, and swelling.
- Pain: Some people may experience pain or discomfort during or after the procedure.
- Scarring: In some cases, scarring may occur at the biopsy site.
Most people experience no complications after a biopsy. In rare cases, more severe complications may occur, such as:
- Damage to organs or blood vessels
- Excessive bleeding
- Allergic reactions to anesthesia
Before the procedure is performed, you should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of a biopsy.