Procedure of Biopsy

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Who does a biopsy and analyzes the sample?

The health care team member who performs your biopsy often depends on the type of biopsy you need and on the part of the body being examined. Your biopsy may be done by:

  • A surgeon
  • A radiologist, who specializes in taking and reading medical images
  • An oncologist, who specializes in treating cancer
  • A gastroenterologist, who specializes in the function and disorders of the GI tract. The GI tract includes the stomach, intestines, and associated organs.
  • A pathologist, who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease. He or she analyzes the tissue sample(s) removed during a biopsy.
  • A cytologist, who specializes in the study of cells. He or she may perform a fine needle aspiration.
  • A dermatologist, who specializes in skin conditions
  • A gynecologist, who specializes in conditions related to a woman’s reproductive system
  • A family practice doctor
  • Other specialists

Getting ready for a biopsy

Preparation for a biopsy depends on the type of biopsy you will have. For example, there is little preparation for a fine needle biopsy performed in a doctor’s office. In some cases, you will need to remove your clothing and wear a gown.

Before your biopsy:

  • Ask your doctor or nurse whether you can eat or drink anything before the biopsy.
  • Also ask if you should take your regular medications that day. For certain biopsies, your doctor will want to know if you are taking blood thinners or aspirin. Tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you are taking.
  • Tell your doctor about any drug allergies or other medical conditions you may have.
  • A member of your health care team will explain the procedure to you.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that states you understand the benefits and risks of the biopsy and agree to have the test done.
  • Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have.

During the procedure

Depending on the part of your body the doctor will biopsy, you may lay on your stomach or back or sit up during the procedure. For some types of biopsies, you may need to hold your breath while the needle is inserted or stay still. Your health care team will let you know ahead of time what to expect during the procedure.

Before the procedure, you will usually receive a type of anesthesia to block the awareness of pain. The type of anesthesia the doctor uses depends on the type of procedure and where in the body the biopsy is needed. The following types may be used:

  • Local anesthesia is an injection that numbs the area where a procedure is being done. You may feel some stinging when the doctor injects a local anesthetic by needle.
  • Conscious sedation or monitored anesthesia care uses medication to relax you. It is usually given through an intravenous (IV) tube and is often combined with a local or regional anesthesia.
  • General anesthesia makes you unconscious during a major procedure, such as surgery. If you receive a general anesthetic, you will not be aware of the procedure.

After the procedure

Your recovery period depends on the type of biopsy:

  • The least invasive procedures require no recovery time. You may be able to go back to your normal activities immediately after the procedure.
  • More invasive procedures may require a longer recovery time.
  • If you receive sedation as part of the anesthesia, you will usually need someone to drive you home after the procedure.

After a biopsy, talk with your doctor or nurse about taking care of the biopsy area. Also, be aware of the potential complications from the procedure. Contact your doctor’s office if you experience:

  • Infection
  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Bleeding

Getting your results

The amount of time it will take for you to receive the results of the biopsy depends on how many tests are needed on the sample to make a diagnosis. Based on this analysis, a pathologist determines whether the tissue removed contains a tumor and what type it is.

A tumor can be benign or malignant:

  • A benign tumor is not cancerous.
  • A malignant tumor is cancerous and can possibly spread to other parts of the body.

A result can often be given within 2 to 3 days after the biopsy. A result that requires a more complicated analysis can take 7 to 10 days. Ask your doctor how you will receive the biopsy results and who will explain them to you.

Keywords: Biopsy Results, Before biopsy, During biopsy, After Biopsy, Biopsy procedure