A biopsy is a test of tissue from the body. A lab will check the sample to look for signs of change or disease.
Reasons for Procedure
This test is done to look for the cause of:
It may also be done to find out if there is cancer or to help diagnose:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as
- Excessive bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
Smoking may raise the risk of problems.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The biopsy team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the biopsy
- Fasting before the biopsy, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from the biopsy
The doctor may give:
- General anesthesia—you will be asleep
- Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
Description of the Procedure
There are many ways to do a biopsy, such as:
- Needle biopsy —a thin needle is used to remove cells
- Aspiration biopsy —a hollow needle uses suction to remove cells
- Core needle biopsy —tissue is removed using a hollow core needle that has a special cutting edge
- Vacuum-assisted biopsy —many samples of tissue are taken using a special rotating probe
- Endoscopic biopsy —a long, thin tube is used to pass other tools through and remove tissue
- Incisional biopsy —a part of a growth is cut out
- Excisional biopsy —a growth is fully removed, such as a breast lump
- Punch biopsy —a sample with many layers of skin is removed with a special tool
- Skin biopsy —a small piece of skin is cut off with a scalpel
- Shave biopsy —top layers of skin are shaved off with a special blade
- Bone marrow biopsy —a long needle passes into bone to collect marrow cells
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How Long Will It Take?
A simple biopsy will only take a few minutes. It will take longer during a surgery.
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first few days. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
You will be able to go home after a simple biopsy. If you had surgery, you may need to stay for 1 to 2 days.
At the Care Center
The staff may give you pain medicines after the biopsy.
Recovery will depend on the location of the biopsy and how much was taken. It may take 2 to 10 days to get the results. Your doctor will share the results with you.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, more pain, bleeding, or leaking fluid
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicine you have been given
- New or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
American College of Surgeons
Biopsies—overview. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=biopgen. Accessed September 15, 2020.
Biopsy. Cancer.Net website. Available at: https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/diagnosing-cancer/tests-and-procedures/biopsy. Accessed September 15, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN Last Updated: 3/23/2021