What is Cancer Biopsy?

Biopsy is a Greek word which stands for bio and opsia. The former means life and the latter means to see. It is a medical test involving removal of cells or tissues for examination. The test reveals the presence or extent of a disease when the suspected cells are studied under powerful microscope.

Cancer biopsy

is one such procedure which helps in finding the symptoms and stage of the dreadful ailment cancer.

While its symptoms are notorious of remaining latent, the stage of the disease is a vital factor in deciding the treatment. Biopsy is the only tool of diagnosis which definitively confirms or dismisses the development of cancer.

What are the Types of Cancer Biopsy?

Primarily there are three types of techniques to carry out this medical test. They are:

  • Excisional Biopsy:

    It involves removal of the complete lesion from the suspected site.

  • Incisional Biopsy:

    Here a sample of the suspected cells is removed without causing damage to their structure.

  • Needle Aspiration Biopsy:

    In this procedure, the structure of the cells gets damaged while they are removed from the site of suspicion. There are certain types of biopsies carried out with needle. They are:

    • Core Needle Biopsy:

      The needle used here is long and has a cut on its tip. It is used to collect tissue columns by drawing them out from the suspected sites.

    • Image-guided Biopsy:

      Other standard imaging techniques of diagnosis like Ultrasound, MRI, CT scan are used along with this test. The doctor gets a clear view of the test site while the needle is inserted with precision.

    • Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy:

      A long thin needle gets inserted into the suspected site here. A syringe draws the test sample of cells and fluids out.

    • Vacuum-assisted Biopsy:

      though this procedure cannot be repeated more number of times, a suction device is used to extract the sample fluids and cells out in sufficient amount.

Some of the most common sites of biopsy are lung, liver, bone marrow and the gastrointestinal tract. These are the sites which get affected a lot when cancer of an organ reaches its advanced stage. The process is called metastasis during which the symptoms of the ailment become apparent.

Bone Marrow Biopsy:

An anesthesia given to the hipbone section of the back. A long needle is inserted into the spongy material present in the central section of the bones called the bone marrow. Studying the collected cells from this section can reveal the presence of any abnormality in the blood. The bone marrow is the primary site for the production of all types of blood cells.

Lung Biopsy:

There are four ways by which cells and tissues of lung are separated for studying under the microscope. These methods are:

  • Open Biopsy:

    A cut is made in the rib section to take a large portion of the organ out. It is carried out when other biopsy types fail to provide results.

  • Needle Biopsy:

    If the suspected cells are close to the chest wall, this method is used. The insertion of the needle to the right site is guided by imaging techniques like ultrasound, CT scan and fluoroscopy.

  • Video-assisted Thorascopic Surgery:

    A small flexible tube is passed through the chest after making an incision. The tube has an instrument to remove a small section of the lung for analysis.

Liver Biopsy:

The purpose of carrying out this medical test on liver is to find the effectiveness of the therapy given to the disease. It also provides information on the progression of the cancer or swelling in the organ which is a sign of further complications.

Endoscopic Biopsy:

Depending on the site of the cells to be removed, anesthesia or sedatives are given to the patient. A long, thin and flexible tube containing light at one end is passed into the body through rectum, urinary tract, mouth or through a small cut in the body. The light sends images of the areas reached by this tube. A small deice is attached to the tube to cut the sample tissues from the desired sites.

Surgical Biopsy:

If the area of diagnosis is unreachable using the existing techniques, then surgery is carried out to get an access of the suspected cells. A cut is made at the site of interest. Either a part of the region is removed or the entire chunk of tissues is removed. Example: Lump of cancer in the breast.

Skin Biopsy:

This test confirms the development of the dreadful melanoma or skin cancer. It has a couple of types. They are:

  • Punch Biopsy:

    This procedure is applied to collect the suspicious cells from the deeper layers of the skin with a circular device.

  • Shave Biopsy:

    The surface of the suspected site is scraped as part of this test. A tool similar to a razor is used for this purpose.

What Analysis of Cancer Biopsy Involves?

  • After the tissues containing cells are obtained, they are frozen, chemically treated or sliced into thin sections.
  • They are stained and placed under powerful microscope to find the details of the cells present in them.
  • The cancer cells under the microscope are graded based on the severity of the ailment. While grade 1 implies that the disease is in the initial stage, grade 4 means that it is aggressive by nature.


The results of

cancer biopsy

medical test are available in two days and help the doctor to decide an appropriate treatment depending upon the stage of the cancer revealed in biopsy.

Unfortunately in most of the cases, biopsy for cancer confirms the disease to be incurable. The standard treatments then aim at curbing the symptoms and reduce the complications of the disease.

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