A biopsy is a procedure that involves the removal of a sample tissue in the body to examine it closely under a microscope. The tissue is mainly examined to diagnose a certain disease. Some may use a needle or surgical methods to remove any lumps or suspicious nodules in the body. Some biopsies are performed in an outpatient setting with less preparation. Your doctor will give you special instructions to follow before a biopsy procedure.
The Different Types of Biopsies
If your doctor detects a nodule in any part of your body, imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound scans, and CT scans are used to help determine whether it has benign (harmless) or malignant (cancerous) cells. If imaging tests, urine analyses, and blood tests cannot provide clear results for the tissue abnormality, a biopsy may be recommended.
Biopsies are mainly used to diagnose cancerous cells. However, the procedure is also useful in detecting other health conditions such as autoimmune disorders, bacterial or fungal infections, and inflammation. A biopsy can also be used to match organs before any transplant.
Biopsies can be performed in many parts of the body for different reasons. Below is a list of the common types of biopsies and the reasons why they are performed:
- Bone biopsy - This type of biopsy is done to diagnose any infection or cancerous cells in the human bones. This procedure can be performed surgically or with a needle inserted through the skin.
- Bone marrow biopsy - This biopsy procedure is done to determine if you have cancer in the blood such as leukemia. In this procedure, a sample of your bone marrow and bone are removed using a needle. Many times, only a sample of the bone marrow is needed for examination.
- Abdominal biopsy - is done to tell whether a lump of tissue in your abdomen has malignant or benign cells. The lumps can either be found in the subcutaneous layer of your skin or deep in your abdomen. An abdominal tissue sample can be collected through guided images of a CT scan or ultrasound. It can also be surgically removed through an open or laparoscopic surgery.
- Breast biopsy - This type of biopsy determines the cause of a breast lump. The breast lumps can either be cancerous or benign growths. A breast biopsy can be ultrasound-guided, MRI-guided, or mammography-guided.
- Kidney or renal biopsy - It is a type of biopsy used to determine the cause of a kidney failure, kidney inflammation, or a suspected cancer or tumor. It can also be used to detect any signs of kidney rejection in case of kidney transplants. Kidney biopsies can be performed by the use of a fine needle that is guided by ultrasound images.
- Endometrial biopsy - This procedure is used to detect the cause of an abnormal bleeding in the uterus. It can also be used to check for cancerous cells on the wall lining the uterus (endometrium). It can be achieved by the use of a fine needle to remove a sample tissue or a special tool to scrape the cells that line the uterus for microscopic examination.
- Liver biopsy - This procedure is used to diagnose liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis C, and cancer. It can also be used to detect compatibility issues or transplant rejections during liver transplants. The procedure is percutaneously performed through the insertion of a needle through the skin. This type of biopsy can also be achieved by inserting a catheter through the jugular vein or through a surgical collection of the liver tissue sample.
- Muscle biopsy - involves the extraction of muscle tissues to diagnose muscle infections, muscle defects, as well as diseases of the blood vessels and connective tissues. This procedure can be achieved surgically or through the use of a fine needle.
- Chest or lung biopsy - This biopsy is performed when there is an abnormality in the lungs that cannot be identified by an X-ray or a CT scan. Biopsies of the lung can be performed by inserting a bronchoscope through the mouth and into the lungs. This process is known as bronchoscopy. A fine needle can also be percutaneously inserted through the skin and into the lungs.
- Lymph node biopsy - This type of biopsy is performed to detect the cause of abnormal or enlarged lymph nodes. The procedure can be done either surgically or through the use of a fine needle.
- Nerve biopsy - This type of biopsy is used to check for nerve inflammation, damage to the small nerves, as well as destruction and degeneration of the nerves.
- Skin biopsy - is done to examine certain growths on the skin such as unusual moles and other physical skin changes. Skin samples during a skin biopsy are collected by first shaving a small portion of the skin and then collecting the sample using a scalpel. An instrument that can punch through the skin to obtain a sample can be used as well.
- Thyroid biopsy - is done to find the cause of a lump or nodule in the thyroid gland. It can also be used to determine the cause of goiter. The procedure is performed through the use of a fine needle which is guided by ultrasound images to remove a tissue sample.
- Testicular biopsy - This type of biopsy is done to determine the cause of male infertility. Its result can also tell whether a lump found in the testes is benign or cancerous. Testicular biopsies are performed either surgically or by the use of a fine needle that is inserted through the scrotum to collect testicular tissue samples for examination.
Benefits vs. Risks
- A needle biopsy can be used to determine whether a sample tissue obtained from an abnormal tissue is malignant or benign.
- A biopsy procedure is less painful.
- Recovery time is short, hence, patients can resume their normal activities after the procedure.
- Since many biopsy procedures involve skin penetration, there is a risk of developing infections.
Although a biopsy is a safe and painless procedure, the following complications can still occur:
- accidental damage to the neighboring organs
A biopsy is a procedure that is performed differently depending on the body part and the size of the tissue sample needed. It is performed mainly to diagnose a condition that causes tissue abnormalities. Its benefits clearly outweigh the risks.