It’s normal to feel nervous before having a medical procedure. But biopsies are very important. They can rule out cancer or confirm the type and stage of cancer you have. An accurate diagnosis is a key to getting you appropriate, potentially life-saving treatments.

What is a Biopsy?

If your doctor thinks you have cancer, he or she will probably ask you to have a test called a biopsy.

A biopsy is a medical term for removing tissue from your body, then studying it under a microscope. Other tests can find potential tumors. But only biopsies can distinguish between normal cells and cancerous cells.

There are many ways to take a tissue sample. Some biopsies can be performed quickly with minimal discomfort. Others are more invasive and require sedation. The most common biopsy procedures include:

  • Needle biopsies remove tissue through a small, hollow needle attached to a syringe. Your doctor may use CT, MRI or ultrasound imaging to guide the needle.
  • Skin biopsies collect skin cells. Some skin biopsies simply scrape the surface of your skin. Others require several layers of skin to be removed and stitched back together.
  • Endoscopic biopsies use flexible tubes (endoscopes) with tiny lights and cameras attached. They let your doctor see inside your body. Special tools passed through the endoscope collect tissue samples. Examples of endoscopic procedures include colonoscopy, bronchoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.
  • Surgical (open) biopsies are more invasive. Your doctor will surgically remove all or part of a known tumor for testing. An excisional biopsy removes the entire tumor. An incisional biopsy cuts out only a piece of the tumor.

Your tissue sample will be studied by doctors called pathologists. If you have cancer, your results will likely show where your cancer started and how aggressive it is. Your tissue may also be tested to see if it contains gene mutations or special proteins to determine if certain treatments such as targeted therapy are appropriate for you.

Types of Biopsies Offered at Mercy

The type of biopsy you’ll need depends on several factors. These include wherein the body your tumor may be located. Mercy offers biopsies to detect cancer and other conditions in nearly every part of the body. The types of biopsies include:

If your biopsy shows you have cancer, you may feel overwhelmed. But you can also feel hopeful. Advances in medicine and technology mean more people are surviving cancer than ever before. And with Mercy's caregivers by your side, you don’t have to face cancer alone.

Biopsies Used for Cancer Detection

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