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A biopsy involves removing a sample of tissue or tumour from the body and examining it under a microscope for cancer cells. Biopsies are used to diagnose a cancer and to determine the extent of disease during the staging process.
Tissue or cell samples can be taken from almost any part of the body. The type of biopsy used depends on the area of the body to be biopsied and the type of cancer suspected.
There are several different kinds of biopsy procedures:
|Type of biopsy||Example|
scrape or brush biopsy
surgical (open) biopsy
A biopsy may be done to:
Depending on the type of biopsy, it may be done in a clinic or hospital as an outpatient or inpatient procedure.
Some people are concerned that having a biopsy or exposing cancer to the air during a surgical procedure will spread the cancer.
The potential side effects of a biopsy depend on the type of biopsy performed. They may include:
The pathologypathology1. The study of disease, including causes, development and effects on the body. 2. The symptoms, processes or conditions of a disease. report indicates the characteristics and type of cells present, and if cells are normal, non-cancerous or cancerous.
If the microscopic examination shows cells are cancerous, they may be studied further. Various tissue tests may be done to:
The doctor will decide whether further tests, procedures, follow-up care or additional treatment are needed.
When doctors suspect that a child might have cancer, biopsies may be done at a pediatric cancer centre. This is especially important if the tumour requires surgery as part of the treatment because poor biopsy technique can affect the success of future surgeries.
Some biopsies are performed in the treatment room of a children’s hospital ward using local anesthetic. Others are done in the operating room under general anesthetic. The type of biopsy needed depends on many factors, including the characteristics and location of the tumour. Parents and children should discuss the procedure with the healthcare team and have all their questions answered completely.
To help prepare children for a biopsy:
The preparation you can provide for a biopsy depends on the age and experience of the child. See the following for more age-specific information on helping children cope with tests and treatment.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
Thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers work in regional cancer centres, lodges and community hospitals to support people receiving treatment.