Biopsy: What, Why, When, and How?

A biopsy is a medical procedure used to collect a sample of tissue or cells for examination. It is typically performed to diagnose specific conditions or diseases, and in some cases, to guide treatment. It can be done in different ways depending on which type of biopsy is being conducted.

Preparation for a Biopsy

Before any biopsy is done, a doctor will order tests and screenings to determine if a biopsy is necessary. Depending on the type of biopsy, the doctor may also order additional imaging tests or blood work. It is important to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking and any health conditions or allergies that you may have. The doctor will also explain any potential risks and side effects of the procedure.

Procedure for a Biopsy

During the procedure, the doctor will use a local or general anesthetic to numb the area. Some procedures can be done in the office or clinic, while others may require an operating room and hospital stay. Once the patient is numb, the doctor will use a medical instrument such as a needle, scalpel, or forceps to remove a sample of tissue or cells. The sample will be sent to the lab for testing. The results of a biopsy can take several days or longer to receive.

Types of Biopsies

  • Needle Biopsy: This biopsy involves inserting a needle into the body to extract a sample of tissue cells.
  • Skin Biopsy: This biopsy involves removing a small portion of the skin.
  • Incisional Biopsy: This biopsy involves making a small cut in the skin to extract a sample of tissue.
  • Endoscopic Biopsy: This type of biopsy involves inserting a thin, flexible device with a camera and a light attached to it. The device is used to view the inside of the body and take small samples of tissue.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: This biopsy involves removing a sample of bone marrow from the hipbone or ribs.

Risks of a Biopsy

All medical procedures involve risks, but biopsies are generally safe. The most common side effects include swelling, pain, bruising, infection, and bleeding. Most of these side effects are minor and resolve on their own.

Why is a Biopsy Needed?

Biopsy is used to diagnose diseases and conditions that can’t be detected with other tests or imaging. It can also be used to identify the cause of symptoms such as pain, fever, or localized swelling. In some cases, it can also be used to determine an individual’s response to a particular treatment.

When is a Biopsy Needed?

A biopsy is typically needed when there is an area of concern that requires further evaluation by a doctor. For example, if a standard imaging test such as an X-ray or MRI detects an abnormal growth, a doctor may order a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous. Biopsies may also be ordered when a doctor is trying to diagnose a condition or if an individual has symptoms that could be caused by a variety of diseases.