Biopsy

A biopsy is done so that a doctor can look at a piece of tumour or cells under a microscope. This is the most reliable way to tell if cells are cancerous.

The doctor may collect the sample in 3 ways. Collection depends on where the tumour is, and which tests need to be done on it:

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy. A very thin needle and syringe are used to remove some fluid for testing.
  • Core needle biopsy. A thick needle is used to remove a sample of tissue, such as part of a tumour.
  • Surgical biopsy. A surgeon removes part (incisional biopsy) or all (excisional biopsy) of a lump as part of a surgery. A needle biopsy is usually done first to make sure the surgery is necessary.

Doctors often use medical imaging (such as a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound) to help determine where to take the biopsy from.

After the biopsy is taken, a pathologist will look at it under a microscope. The pathologist will test the sample to see if it contains cancerous cells. It will take several days before your get the test results back.

A biopsy is usually a minor surgical procedure. However, it can be painful, so your child will usually be given a general anaesthetic. This will put them to sleep so that they don’t feel any pain during the procedure. Very rarely, in older children, the biopsy might be done with a local anaesthetic. This numbs the area around the biopsy to prevent pain.

Your child will probably have some soreness in the biopsy area afterwards, and they might need to stay in hospital for a short time to recover.

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