What is a biopsy? A Biopsy test involves removing cells or tissues to check under a microscope. Doctors may recommend a biopsy if an initial test suggest that an area of tissue in the body is not functioning normally. It helps to determine the presence or extent of a disease. The subject tissue is generally examined under a microscope or can also be analyzed chemically.The area of abnormal tissue is called a lesion, a tumor, or a mass. These are general words, used to feature the unknown nature of the tissue.
There are 3 main types of biopsy tests:
- Incisional Biopsy or Core Biopsy: By this type of biopsy only a sample of tissue is removed.
- Needle Biopsy or Biopsy or Fine-Needle Aspiration: A sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a hollow needle.
- Excisional Biopsy: A whole tumor or lesion is removed.
Biopsy is done in order to detect the suspicious area either during a physical examination or inside the body on an imaging test. Although it is carried out for cancer diagnosis; however, biopsies also help to identify many other conditions. In some cases, a biopsy of normal-appearing tissue may also be done to check for cancer spread or rejection of a transplanted organ.
In most cases, a biopsy is done to diagnose a problem or to help determine the best therapy option. This can be done through numerous different ways. Nearly all of them involve using a sharp tool to remove a small amount of tissue.
Here are some types of biopsies:
- Needle biopsy: As described above, in this type of biopsy a slightly larger, hollow needle is used to access the suspicious tissue.
- CT-guided biopsy: A procedure in which a person rests in a CT-scanner; images taken from the scanner help doctors determine the exact position of the needle in the targeted tissue.
- Bone marrow biopsy: Bone marrow biopsy involves the use of large needle to detect blood disease such as leukemia and lymphoma. Needle is injected in the pelvis bones to collect bone marrow.
- Liver biopsy: Removal of small sample of tissue from the liver by inserting needle into the liver through the skin on the belly, and tissues of the liver are captured.
- Prostate biopsy: Multiple needle biopsies are taken at one time from the prostate gland to detect the presence of cancer. In this procedure, a probe is inserted into the rectum to access the prostate.
- Surgical biopsy: Either open surgery or laparoscopic surgery may be required to obtain a biopsy of hard-to-reach tissue.
Once the biopsy is done, the tissue is collected and preserved in a diagnostic histopathology setup. It is then provided to a pathologist at a pathology laboratory. Pathologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing conditions based on tissue samples and other tests. A pathologist examines the biopsy tissue under a microscope and by carefully observing the tissue cell type, shape, and internal activity (in most cases) a pathologist can diagnose the problem and distinguish the results to the concerned doctor.
The time it takes to get results from a biopsy can vary. Sometimes, highly accurate conclusions on biopsies often take a week or longer but in an emergency case, a pathologist may read a biopsy and report back to a surgeon in a few minutes. This is done by a biopsy procedure called the frozen section. During the frozen section procedure, the physician removes a small portion of the tissue mass. The pathologist freezes the tissue in a cryostat machine, cuts the tissue with Microtome, and then stains it with various dyes so that it can be examined under the microscope. As soon as the diagnosis is made, the results are communicated to the surgeon.
Biopsies are important to study the health issues people face during their lifetime, without a biopsy test, the doctors may not be able to diagnose or treat deadly diseases such as cancer, tumors, etc.