Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Biopsy

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.

Types of biopsies

Some common types of biopsy procedures include:

  • Incisional biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue from a tumor
  • Excisional biopsy: The removal of an entire tumor or lesion
  • Core needle biopsy: The removal of a small cylinder of tissue from a tumor with a hollow needle
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy: The removal of a small amount of tissue or fluid from a tumor with a very thin needle attached to a syringe