What is it?

How is it Used?

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Biopsy Overview


A biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue or cells. A pathologist examines the sample under a microscope.

A biopsy may be taken from any part of the body.

What to Expect

#Prior to Procedure

Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:

If you will be having general anesthesia, avoid eating or drinking after midnight.


The type used depends on what you are having biopsied:

  • General anesthesia —blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the procedure; given through an IV in your hand or arm
  • Local anesthesia—just the area that is being operated on is numbed; given as an injection

#Description of the Procedure

For a simple biopsy, the area will be cleaned. A numbing medicine will be injected into the area so that you will not feel pain. A piece of tissue or skin will then be removed. The opening will be closed.

![Stereotactic Biopsy][5]

The procedure that your doctor uses depends on the type of biopsy that you are having. For example:

  • Needle biopsy—cells are removed using a thin needle
  • Aspiration biopsy—cells are drawn out with a hollow needle that uses suction
  • Core needle biopsy—a sample of tissue is removed using a hollow “core” needle that has a special cutting edge
  • Vacuum-assisted biopsy—a number of samples of tissue are taken using a special rotating probe device
  • Endoscopic biopsy—abnormality is viewed with a long, thin tube that has a lighted camera on one end (called an endoscope); a tool is passed through the tube to take the biopsy sample
  • Incisional biopsy—a portion of a mass is removed by cutting it out
  • Excisional biopsy—a mass is completely removed (eg, breast lump)
  • Punch biopsy —a core of skin is removed with a special biopsy tool
  • Skin biopsy —a small piece of skin is cut off with a scalpel
  • Shave biopsy—top layers of skin are shaved off with a special blade
  • Bone marrow biopsy —a long needle is inserted into the bone marrow to collect cells

![Bone Marrow Biopsy][9]

#How Long Will It Take?

A simple biopsy usually takes a few minutes. A biopsy involving surgery takes longer.

#How Much Will It Hurt?

You will have pain in the area where the sample was removed. Your doctor may give you pain medicine.

#Average Hospital Stay

If you have a simple biopsy, you will be able to go home. If your biopsy involved surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for 1-2 days.

#Post-procedure Care

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .

  • Take pain medicine as directed by your doctor.
  • To relieve discomfort, apply a warm compress or a heating pad to the area.
  • Ask your doctor when you should change the bandages.
  • If you have stitches, have them removed in about a week.

[5]: image/79 "Stereotactic Biopsy" center [9]: image/80 "Bone Marrow Biopsy" center



American Cancer Society

National Library of Medicine


BC Cancer Agency

Health Canada


Biopsy. Radiology Info website. Available at: . Accessed July 24, 2009.

Biopsy procedures used to diagnose cancer. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: . Updated April 2009. Accessed July 24, 2009.

Diagnosis. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: . Accessed July 24, 2009.

Schoonjans JM, Brem RF. Fourteen-gauge ultrasonographically guided core-needle biopsy of breast masses. J Ultrasound Med. 2001;20:967-972.