What is biopsy?

A biopsy is a diagnostic procedure, involving the removal of a small sample of tissue or cells from the body. In many cases, a biopsy is the definitive test used to determine whether a suspicious area is cancerous or not. However, the utility of biopsies extends beyond a cancer diagnosis, as they serve other purposes, like

  • To identify the presence of infection or inflammation.
  • To assess the nature of abnormal tissue or cells.
    To diagnose the extent of the progression of cancer.
  • To monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment.

What are the types of biopsies?

There are various types of biopsies, each suited for specific circumstances. Common types include:

  • Needle Biopsy: Involves using a thin needle to extract tissue or fluid samples from a specific area of the body.
  • Surgical Biopsy: Involves the removal of an entire lump or suspicious tissue along with some surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Endoscopic Biopsy: Performed using a long, flexible tube called an endoscope to visualize and collect tissue samples from within the body.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: This involves extracting a small amount of bone marrow to assess blood disorders or bone marrow diseases.
  • Skin Biopsy: Skin biopsies involve the removal of cells from the surface of the body for diagnostic purposes. A skin biopsy is commonly performed to identify and diagnose various skin conditions, including melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

Who conducts the biopsy?

Biopsy can be done by different medical professionals, including surgeon, dermatologists, pathologists, gynecologists, gastroenterologists or oncologists, depending on the type of biopsy and the area of the body being tested.

The biopsy specimen is sent to a laboratory for analysis. A specialist, called a pathologist, studies it under a microscope to diagnose the underlying disease or condition.

The Biopsy Procedure

Understanding the biopsy procedure can help alleviate anxiety. Here are the common steps involved:

Preparation: The doctor performing the biopsy will provide instructions on any necessary preparation, such as fasting or discontinuing certain medications.

Anesthesia: Depending on the type of biopsy, local or general anesthesia may be administered to ensure comfort during the procedure.

Sample collection: The doctor performing the biopsy will carefully extract the tissue or cell sample using the appropriate technique.

Site care: After the biopsy, the site may be closed with sutures or left open to heal naturally, depending on the procedure.

Recovery: The patient may be monitored for a short period following the biopsy before being discharged with specific aftercare instructions.

The duration of hospital stay following a biopsy procedure can vary based on the type of anesthesia administered and any potential complications that may arise. In general, individuals who undergo a biopsy under local anesthesia can usually return home on the same day of the procedure. The local anesthesia numbs the specific area where the biopsy is performed, allowing for a relatively quick recovery and discharge.

On the other hand, an overnight hospital stay is typically required if the biopsy is performed under general anesthesia, which induces a temporary state of unconsciousness. General anesthesia is commonly used for more complex or invasive biopsies, ensuring the patient’s comfort and safety during the procedure. The overnight hospital stay allows for postoperative monitoring and management of any potential side effects or complications that may arise from the anesthesia or the procedure itself.

It is important to note that individual circumstances can vary, and the decision for the duration of hospital stay will depend on factors such as the patient’s overall health, the specific type of biopsy performed, and the doctor’s assessment. The doctor provides specific instructions regarding post-procedure care, including the expected duration of hospital stay, based on the situation.


While biopsies are generally safe, there are some risks involved. These may include:

  • Bleeding or bruising at the biopsy site.
  • Infection.
  • Discomfort or pain.

It is important to discuss any concerns or potential complications with doctor before the procedure.

Biopsy results may be available within a few days or may take more than a week. It is best to discuss the expected timeframe for receiving biopsy results with the laboratory.


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