Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Biopsy for soft tissue sarcoma

Biopsy for soft tissue sarcoma

The two most common techniques used for performing a soft tissue sarcoma biopsy are: needle biopsy and open surgical biopsy.

  • Needle biopsy: For this procedure, your doctor will numb the area of the planned biopsy with a local anesthetic before inserting a needle into the tumor to retrieve a sample of cells. A CT or ultrasound scan may be used to help guide the biopsy needle, especially if the lump is not near the surface of your body. Since there are so many types of sarcomas, a large “core” needle is used whenever possible, as this allows for a larger tissue sample. A needle biopsy may be especially useful for tumors that are hard to reach, such as a retroperitoneal sarcoma (a sarcoma located deep within the abdomen or pelvis) or a sarcoma deep within the thigh.
  • Surgical biopsy: Because of the nature of managing sarcomas, an open surgical biopsy is only performed by an experienced surgical oncologist who has worked with sarcomas before. This procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia, because the surgeon will remove a relatively large sample of the tumor. With soft tissue sarcomas, the surgeon must be careful not to disrupt the tumor, as it could cause the cancer cells to spread. A surgical biopsy for soft tissue sarcoma takes careful planning, and there are two important steps that your surgeon will take:
    • Create a longitudinal (“lengthwise”) incision for extremity tumors.
    • Place the incision in such a fashion that after the biopsy, the surgical oncologist will be able to completely remove the entire tumor, as well as the previous surgical biopsy scar.

What is a biopsy?

During a biopsy, a doctor removes a sample of tissue or fluid from the body. A pathologist inspects the cells under a microscope to see if they are cancerous. If the cells are found to be cancerous, a biopsy may help determine whether the cancer began at the site of the biopsy or if it started somewhere else in the body and spread to the biopsy site.

Some biopsies are performed endoscopically, others under image guidance, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the radiology suite. In some cases, biopsies are performed in the operating suite. This allows your doctor to collect tissue from deep inside the body. 

Some sites that are commonly biopsied include the breast, skin, bone marrow, GI tract, lung, liver, bladder, colon and lymph nodes. Our doctors determine the method of biopsy based on several factors, such as the size, shape, location, and characteristics of the abnormality.

Biopsy medical animation