What is a Biopsy and What Can It Be Used to Detect?

February 13, 2023
3 min read
What is a Biopsy and What Can It Be Used to Detect?

Depending on the condition, you may have heard your doctor request a biopsy. This is usually done as part of a test or screening for cancer. 

A biopsy is a sample of tissue requested by a doctor for closer examination. A biopsy is most frequently performed after an initial test suggests abnormal tissue. Today, we’ll take a closer look at what biopsies are and what they can be used to detect.

What is a Biopsy?

What is a biopsy? 

A biopsy is a procedure performed on different parts of the body to test for tissue abnormalities. Almost any culture of cells can be biopsied and studied. Biopsies are usually, but not always, done as part of cancer screenings.

Biopsies can vary greatly depending on how difficult the tissue is to obtain, or how invasive the procedure is. A minimally invasive biopsy, like a skin biopsy, can be done in the doctor’s office during the same visit. More invasive biopsies may require needles to extract cells, or for the patient to be placed under an anesthetic. Invasive tests will require secondary appointments in a hospital, surgery center, or other specialized doctor’s office.

Depending on how invasive the procedure is, you may feel sore for a few days afterward. Your doctor may prescribe appropriate pain relief medicine if a biopsy produces significant pain. Tissues are collected, preserved, and often sent on to a specialized doctor called a pathologist. The pathologist (or the doctor who biopsied themselves) will then examine the tissue for signs of cancer or other abnormalities.

The time it takes to receive results may vary. Biopsy results can be produced in a few minutes, or may take over a week. You will most likely follow up with your doctor to discuss the biopsy results later.

Bone Marrow Biopsy

A bone marrow biopsy detects blood diseases like leukemia or lymphoma. A large needle is used to enter the pelvis bone to collect bone marrow. Most frequently, a bone marrow biopsy will be conducted alongside what’s called a bone marrow aspiration (collecting fluid from the marrow). When paired together, these procedures are known as a general bone marrow examination.

A bone marrow examination usually takes about thirty minutes total, with aspiration and biopsy both taking approximately ten minutes each. 

To start, the patient generally lies face down or on their side. The bone marrow samples are taken from the back of the hip bone. After testing blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, a sedative is administered and the site is disinfected. 

First, a smaller needle will be used for the aspiration, taking a small amount of liquid bone marrow. After that, a larger needle is used to collect the biopsy. There may be slight pain during one or both injections. After applying a bandage, the examination is complete.

Liver Biopsy: What to Expect

In a liver biopsy, liver tissue is captured with a needle through the stomach. These cells can then be tested by a pathologist for cirrhosis or other signs of liver damage. The procedure itself only takes about five minutes, although you will need to be supervised for about four hours afterward. There will be a small incision made for needle insertion, and the cells are then extracted.

Most biopsies will have similar methodologies, depending on where the cells are being extracted from. If you need a biopsy, your doctor will explain any potential risks and complications in closer detail.

Biopsy Results You Can Trust From BASS Medical Group

Getting a biopsy and awaiting test results can be a nerve-wracking experience. BASS Medical Group’s board-certified specialists are here to help through every step of the way. 

BASS is here to help with primary care, screenings and biopsies, and any other health-related concerns. If you need qualified, professional medical assistance with biopsies or any other tests, schedule a consultation today.