Blogs | 25 October 2022
What is Biopsy Test For Cancer?
Cancer is a scary word for many people. When you hear it, you may automatically think of the end of life and despair. While cancer does have a high fatality rate, early diagnosis and treatment can increase your chances of survival. One common way to diagnose cancer is through a biopsy test.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, one of the first steps in your treatment plan will likely be a biopsy. A biopsy is a test that involves taking a small sample of tissue from the suspected tumour so it can be examined in a lab under a microscope. You will know :
- What is biopsy & its uses?
- When is a biopsy recommended?
- What to expect during a biopsy procedure, including
- How to prepare for a biopsy? And
- What to expect afterwards?
Knowing what to expect can help you feel more confident and prepared as you begin your cancer journey.
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What is a Biopsy?
A biopsy is a test in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the body so it can be examined under a microscope. The sample can be taken from any part of the body but is most commonly taken from the skin, breast, lung, colon, or prostate.
There are two main types of biopsies :
- Incisional Biopsy :
In this type of biopsy, only a small portion of the tumour is removed.
- Excisional Biopsy :
This type of biopsy removes the entire tumour.
If the tumour is large, an incisional biopsy may be done first to confirm the diagnosis. Once cancer is confirmed, an excisional biopsy may be done to remove the entire tumour.
There are also two main types of needle biopsies
- Fine-needle Aspiration (FNA):
In this type of biopsy, a thin needle is inserted into the tumour to remove cells. FNA is often used to diagnose tumours in the breast, thyroid, and lymph nodes.
- Core Needle Biopsy :
In this type of biopsy, a larger needle is inserted into the tumour to remove a small cylinder of tissue (called a core). This type of biopsy is often used to diagnose tumours in the breast, lung, and liver.
Biopsy results can take a few days to a week to come back. You will likely be scheduled for a follow-up appointment with your doctor to discuss the results.
sometimes for some areas not easily accessible- we may need image guides (Ultrasound/CT/MRI ) biopsies or endoscopy-guided biopsies ( Upper GI scope/ bronchoscopy/ direct or indirect laryngoscopy/ colonoscopy/ sigmoidoscopy/colposcopy)
When is Biopsy Recommended?
Biopsy is often recommended when an abnormal growth is found during a physical exam or imaging test . Your doctor may also recommend biopsy if you have certain symptoms that could be caused by cancer, such as a lump in the breast or unexplained weight loss.
What to Expect During a Biopsy Procedure?
Before the procedure, you will meet with your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of the biopsy. You will also be given instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.
Most biopsies are done as outpatient procedures, which means you will be able to go home the same day. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.
You will be asked to lie down on a table. The area where the biopsy will be done will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution. A local anaesthetic will be injected into the area to numb it.
If you are having an incisional biopsy, a small piece of the tumour will be removed using a scalpel. If you are having an excisional biopsy, the entire tumour will be removed.
If you are having a needle biopsy, a needle will be inserted into the tumour to remove cells or tissue. The needle may be inserted through the skin or through a small incision in the skin.
After the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will be monitored for any complications. You may have some bruising, swelling, and soreness at the biopsy site. These side effects should resolve within a week or two.
Also Read : Is Cancer Hereditary from Parents?
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What are the Risks of a Biopsy?
A biopsy is generally a safe procedure. The most common complication is bleeding or infection at the biopsy site. Other potential complications include:
- Allergic reaction to anesthesia
- Damage to nearby organs (if needles are used)
- Tumour seeding (if tumor cells are left behind during the biopsy)
- Emotional distress (anxiety, depression, etc.)
You can help reduce your risk of complications by following your doctor’s instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.
What are the limitations of biopsy?
A biopsy is considered the gold standard for diagnosing cancer. However, there are some limitations to this procedure.
- Not all tumors can be biopsied. Some tumors are located in difficult-to-reach areas or are too small to be seen on imaging tests.
- There is a small risk that cancer cells will be left behind during the biopsy (tumor seeding). If this happens, it could cause the cancer to spread.
- There is a small risk of infection or bleeding after the procedure.
- There is a small risk that the biopsy results will be inaccurate. This could happen if the tissue sample is not representative of the whole tumor.
- Biopsy can be emotionally distressing. Some people may feel anxious or depressed after the procedure.
What to Expect Afterward?
After the procedure, your doctor will review the results of the biopsy with you. If cancer is found, additional tests will be done to determine the stage of cancer (how far it has spread). The stage of cancer will help guide your treatment options.
If no cancer is found, you will be monitored closely for any changes. You may need to have follow-up imaging tests or repeat biopsies in the future.
You will likely have a follow-up appointment with your doctor 4-5 days after the biopsy. At this appointment, your Cancer doctor in Mumbai will discuss the results of the biopsy and any next steps.