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Tissue sampling for diagnosis

A biopsy is a sampling of tissue, usually from a lump or unusual growth, which allows for further testing. This is a medical procedure used to identify abnormal cells.

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technical success rate of MRI-guided breast biopsies
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technical success rate for percutaneous transthoracic lung needle biopsies
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Your doctor will only recommend a biopsy if your lump cannot be diagnosed with an ultrasound. mammogram, or other diagnostic procedure. A biopsy is a medical procedure in which a sample of the tissue of the lump is removed for further testing and examination.

When the cells of the tissue are examined under a microscope, it is possible to identify any abnormal cells that may be present. It can provide information about functional and structural problems within individual organs.

Biopsies are also used to assess the severity of an existing condition that has already been diagnosed. The results of your biopsy will ensure that you get the best and most appropriate treatment for your condition.

Main use

Biopsies are crucial for accurately diagnosing various medical conditions, especially cancers. By examining tissue or cell samples under a microscope, pathologists can determine the presence and type of disease, which is essential for effective treatment planning.

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The results from a biopsy can help doctors decide the best course of treatment. For cancer, for instance, the biopsy can reveal the type and stage of the cancer, which directly influences treatment options like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.


In some cases, biopsies are used to monitor the progression of a disease or the effectiveness of treatment. This is particularly important in chronic conditions or cancers, where ongoing assessment can guide adjustments in therapy.


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Woman doctor taking notes

The importance of biopsies

The importance of biopsies in modern medicine, particularly in the accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of diseases like cancer cannot be overstated. The high success rates of various biopsy techniques also highlight their reliability as a diagnostic tool.

What is it?

A biopsy is a medical procedure that involves the extraction of sample cells or tissues for examination to determine the presence or extent of a disease, primarily cancer. The sample is often taken from a suspected abnormality, such as a lump or a suspicious area identified through imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans.

There are various types of biopsies, including needle biopsy, where a needle is used to extract tissue; surgical biopsy, involving the removal of tissue through an incision; and endoscopic biopsy, where tissue is taken using an endoscope inserted into the body. The choice of biopsy method depends on the location and nature of the abnormality.

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The Procedure

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  • No preparation is required, although you may be asked to stop taking blood-thinning medications for the day of the procedure.

during the appointment


  • In order to obtain the sample tissue, a hollow needle is inserted through the skin into the area of the lump.
  • The needle is guided to the right place with the help of ultrasound scans, X-rays, CT or MRI scans, and then removes a small amount of tissue.
  • This procedure is usually done in conjunction with a local anaesthetic in order to avoid any pain or discomfort.
  • You may experience a dull ache in the area after the sample has been taken, which can be addressed with painkillers.

post appointment


  • You will discuss the delivery of your results with the specialist you will be referred to.

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Is a biopsy painful?
Biopsies are performed with a local anaesthetic, to keep pain levels at a minimum. You may experience more discomfort if the tissue (such as in the breast) is especially dense, or if the area to be tested is close to a sensitive area. Some swelling and bruising may follow the procedure.
Why do I need to have a biopsy?
The doctor will recommend that you have a biopsy in order to take a sample of your tissue in the presence of an abnormality. A biopsy will only be recommended when the doctor is unable to diagnose you through other means.
What is a prostate biopsy?
In a prostate biopsy, a small sample of tissue from the prostate gland is removed for further testing underneath a microscope. The biopsy needle is usually inserted through the perineum, or more commonly through the rectum. A local anaesthetic may be given.

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