A biopsy is a surgical procedure used to determine whether a tumour is benign or cancerous.
- It involves a piece of tissue being removed from the tumour, and examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells.
- The tissue is examined by a pathologist – someone who is expert in identifying the changes in body tissue caused by disease. This microscopic study of tissue confirms or rules out a diagnosis of cancer.
- The type of biopsy used is dependant on where the tumour is located and what sort of cancer the doctor is looking for.
Some biopsies you might come across:
- Core needle biopsy - removes small but solid samples of tissue using a hollow "core" needle.
- Fine needle biopsy - a very thin needle is passed into the affected area to remove a small tissue sample.
- Open surgical biopsy - a large mass or lump is removed during a surgical procedure. This is normally performed in an operating room under general anaesthetic, although local anaesthetic is also sometimes used.
- Shave biopsy – Used in some cases to diagnose skin cancer. Performed with a small scalpel blade.
- Incisional biopsy – When only a sample of the suspicious lesion or cyst is removed.
- Excisional biopsy – When the entire lesion or cyst is removed.