What is a Biopsy?

A biopsy procedure is when a small amount of tissue is taken out of the body so that it can be viewed and evaluated. This helps doctors determine if the organ or area from which the tissue was removed is healthy or if disease is present. Based on the results of a biopsy, a doctor may request that additional procedures be performed or prescribe treatment.

How & Why Is a Biopsy Done?

A biopsy is typically performed when other procedures don’t provide a clear or complete answer to a medical question. In some cases, the question is about the presence or absence of disease. In others, it’s about whether or not a disease has progressed or a treatment is working.

There are many reasons why a biopsy might be performed. Some of the more common include:

  • To determine if a mole is cancerous because it’s started to change shape.
  • To assess whether a breast lump detected by a mammogram is cancerous or benign.
  • To determine if a person with hepatitis has developed cirrhosis in their liver.

How’s a biopsy done and what does a biopsy show? That depends on the type of biopsy performed.

Types of Biopsy Procedures

There are many different biopsy types. Each is used for a specific purpose or purposes. Some of the more common biopsies are:

Needle Biopsy

The doctor inserts a needle into an organ or area and uses it to extract a tissue sample.

Punch Biopsy

A circular blade is used to cut out a cylindrical tissue sample. Punch biopsies are most commonly used on the skin.

Aspiration Biopsy

A narrow needle is inserted into a mass and material is withdrawn. This is often referred to as fine-needle aspiration.

Surgical Biopsy

A single incision is made to enable the surgeon to access the tissue in question, or multiple incisions are made to allow access for multiple instruments in what’s called laparoscopic surgery.

Some of the organs and areas most commonly assessed using one of the types of biopsy procedures are the liver, kidneys, prostate, and bones.

How to Prepare for a Biopsy

Your doctor will tell you how to prepare for a biopsy, if one is required. The specific instructions will depend on the type of biopsy, but you may be told to:

  • Refrain from eating or drinking for eight hours before your biopsy
  • Adjust certain prescription medications
  • Avoid certain over-the-counter medications
  • Tell your doctor about any allergies you have
  • Tell your doctor about any recent illnesses or medical conditions
  • Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or if there’s any possibility that you might be pregnant

If you have questions like, “How long does a biopsy take?”, your doctor can answer them before your procedure.

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What to Expect After a Biopsy

If you’re having a needle biopsy or punch biopsy, you may feel a sharp pinching sensation at the site as the procedure is performed, and will probably be sore in the area for a few days afterward. If you have a surgical biopsy, you’ll be given anesthesia and it may take a little time after the procedure for your head to clear. Your doctor will give you aftercare instructions for the puncture or incision site.

How long do biopsy results take? Typically, a report is produced by a pathologist and sent to your doctor within a few days. Your doctor will then contact you to discuss the report.

Biopsy Procedures from Baptist Health

Learn more about biopsies and other imaging and diagnostic procedures with Baptist Health. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with our doctors, please contact the Baptist Health Imaging & Diagnostics team.

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