A biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue or cells. A doctor will examine the sample under a microscope.
A biopsy may be taken from any part of the body.
Reasons for Procedure
A biopsy is used to see if the cells from a sample of tissue are abnormal. 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:
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure such as:
Avoid eating or drinking after midnight if you are going to have general anesthesia.
The type of anesthesia used depends on what you are having biopsied:
Description of the Procedure
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 will depend on the type of biopsy that you are having. For example:
How Long Will It Take?
A simple biopsy usually takes a few minutes. A biopsy involving surgery takes longer.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have pain in the area where the sample was removed. Your doctor may give you pain medicine.
Average Hospital Stay
You will be able to go home after a simple biopsy. 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.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
American College of Surgeons
BC Cancer Agency
Biopsy. Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiolo.... Accessed November 13, 2012.
Diagnosis. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/overview/page7. Accessed November 13, 2012.
Schoonjans JM, Brem RF. Fourteen-gauge ultrasonographically guided core-needle biopsy of breast masses. J Ultrasound Med. 2001;20:967-972.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Igor Puzanov, MD