A biopsy is a medical test which is performed to detect cancerous cells at a suspicious site. A radiologist or a surgeon usually performs the procedure. A biopsy is one of the multiple advanced tests which confirm the diagnosis of cancer.
Pakistani population is at high risk of cancer. According to Cancer Index, 11.8% of Pakistanis are at the risk of catching cancer before the age of 75. The biopsy is thus a commonly performed procedure in the country.
In this article, we are shedding a light on the complete procedure of biopsy and what you should expect if you are going under one.
Why a biopsy is needed?
A biopsy is needed when a doctor suspects a medical condition like cancer in a patient and wants to confirm it. When a patient presents with other symptoms of the condition, biopsy essentially gives the final confirmation.
Imaging techniques like X-ray and ultrasound can only show a mass at a site in the body. They do not tell about the exact nature of the cells of the mass. Not all masses are cancerous, but there is a fair chance that a mass might very well be. Thus, a mass cannot be ignored and a biopsy becomes necessary.
During a biopsy, the doctor takes out a small sample of tissue or cells and analyzes the sample in a laboratory. With a small number of cells from the mass, the doctor can make an assessment of the presence of cancerous cells in the entire mass.
Types of biopsies
Depending upon the medical condition which needs a diagnosis, there are different types of biopsies.
1. Bone Marrow Biopsy
Bone marrow is the semi-solid material present in the larger bones. During a bone marrow biopsy, the doctor takes out a little amount of the bone marrow with a big syringe. Bone-marrow is usually taken out of the hip-bone. It is a painful process and the patient might have to be put under anesthesia.
A bone marrow biopsy is usually used for the diagnosis of blood-related problems. These problems may be cancerous such as leukemia and lymphoma. They might also be non-cancerous such as unexplained severe anemia. A doctor may also perform a bone marrow biopsy to detect cancers that start somewhere else but transfer to the bone marrow.
2. Endoscopic biopsy
In an endoscopic biopsy, the doctor uses a fine tube with a small headlight. Depending upon the site of investigation, this tube is inserted in the patient through the rectum, urinary tract, mouth or through the skin. The tube with the headlight is then used to view the insides of the patient. The tube also has small tools that can retract a small sample from the affected site for later analysis.
Endoscopic biopsy is usually performed with the patient under anesthesia. The endoscopic biopsy may be performed to get tissue samples from the inside of the bladder, colon or the lungs.
3. Needle biopsy
During a needle biopsy, the doctor takes a sample of cells through a needle from the affected site. Needle biopsies usually target tumors that are visible such as breast lumps and swollen lymph nodes.
A biopsy is an important medical test. It can also be painful in some cases, but it is necessary regardless. You should prepare yourself before going into a biopsy. You should make sure that you ask your doctor all the relevant questions before the procedure starts and also afterwards when he/she explains the results to you.
In any case, it is strongly recommended to get your tests administered by the best radiologist with ample experience. They know how to handle the pain and ensure maximum accuracy.