4 Common Types of Biopsy, Explained

You get that sinking feeling – you’ve found a lump. Your first thought is to get straight to the doctor’s office to put your mind at rest. 

Then she starts talking about taking a biopsy.

You know roughly what that means, but exactly how does a biopsy work? Will I need sedation? Will it hurt? A hundred questions start flooding through your mind.

If you’re in this situation, a little knowledge can set your mind at rest. Let’s explore four common types of biopsy, so that you’re prepared when the day comes.

What Is a Biopsy?

A biopsy is a small tissue sample. Doctors use them to diagnose conditions such as cancer, liver cirrhosis, or to monitor transplanted organs. Your doctor will order one after a physical if they have noticed certain abnormalities.

Having a biopsy taken is normally a small procedure in itself. You will go into the doctor’s office or hospital for the procedure. Depending on the type, you may need sedation or painkillers.

However, frozen section procedures are a little different. The surgeon takes the biopsy during surgery.

They can quickly diagnose the severity of the condition. The surgeon can then decide invasive the surgery needs to be.

Types of Biopsy

There are many different types of biopsy, but all of them consist of using a sharp, surgical instrument to extract a tissue sample. Some are minimally invasive. Others may need to be guided by a CT or ultrasound scanner.

1. Skin Biopsy

A skin biopsy is one of the most common types of biopsy and is used to test for skin cancers, infections, and other skin conditions. This is usually done in a doctor’s office.

He or she will use a little cream or an injection to numb the area. They will then collect a small sample, often using a small punch.

This is one of the least invasive forms of biopsy. You may need a couple of stitches depending on the size of the sample taken. 

2. Needle Biopsy

Guided by a CT or ultrasound scanner, the surgeon will insert a hollow needle into the body. This can remove cells from under the skin, in muscles, bones, or organs.

You will normally be given sedation or anesthesia for this procedure. You may be sore for a few days. You will need at least one day off work to recover and should arrange for someone to drive you home afterward.

3. Bone Marrow Biopsy

Doctors use bone marrow biopsies to diagnose blood disorders. They involve taking a sample of the spongy matter inside the bones for analysis. The surgeon will use a large needle.

The area will be anesthetized first, but the incision can be painful. Some patients may prefer to be sedated for the procedure.

4. Prostate Biopsy

There are two types of prostate biopsy. The first enters the prostate through the rectum. The second enters through the skin between the anus and the scrotum.

The doctor will usually take multiple biopsies. You may notice some blood in your urine or semen for a few weeks after.

When to Get a Tissue Biopsy 

If you notice any unusual lumps or bumps, it’s good to get down to the doctor’s office as soon as possible.

Most types of biopsy are not too painful. They are crucial for diagnosing exactly what is going on and starting treatment as soon as possible.

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