A biopsy is the procedure of when a tissue sample or cells are taken from your body to determine whether they are cancerous or not.
There are various ways of doing a biopsy and this will depend on where the tumour or area of concern is located. Biopsies are obtained in the least invasive way possible. Particularly if you need to have a breast biopsy, it should be radiologically-guided and done by a radiologist at mammography centres or outpatient radiology departments. A radiologically-guided core needle biopsy is gold standard and less invasive. Radiologically-guided biopsies can also be done for tumours of the lung or liver, and other methods, such as endoscopy, can be used if a tumour is suspected in the stomach or colon.
The biopsy sample will be sent to a pathology lab where a pathologist will test it to see if it’s cancer or not. If it’s cancer, the pathologist will report on what type of cancer it is which assists your multi-disciplinary team greatly in which treatment will be best. The larger the biopsy sample, the more accurate the diagnosis. Therefore, a core biopsy (a piece of the tissue) is preferred to fine needle aspirations (samples of the cells).
It’s important that the treatment team receive the results of the biopsy before any treatment decisions are made. The results from the biopsy may impact the sequencing of your treatments, as some cancers need chemotherapy, for example, before they are surgically removed.
Questions to ask:
- What type of biopsy do I need?
- Is there a less invasive type of biopsy?
- What does the procedure entail?
- How long does it take?
- Will I be given anaesthetic?
- If I’m awake, will the area that is being biopsied be numbed?
- Must I have someone with me to take me home?
- Does the biopsy procedure leave a cut, and will I need stitches and if so how long will it take to heal?
- Are there any side effects of the biopsy?
- How long does it take to get the biopsy results?
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