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Cancer Health Center

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What Is a Biopsy?

What to Expect From Your Biopsy

Biopsies vary greatly according to how difficult the tissue is to obtain. The medical term for this is "invasiveness."

A minimally invasive biopsy (for example, most skin biopsies) may be done in the doctor's office during the same visit the lesion is discovered. A small injection of numbing medicine can make the procedure almost painless.

More invasive biopsies may be done in a hospital, a surgery center, or a specialized doctor's office. You would make a separate appointment for the biopsy. In most cases, sedating and pain relief medicines are given, reducing any discomfort. You likely won't be able to drive after receiving these medicines.

You may feel sore at the area of the biopsy for a few days. Your doctor can prescribe appropriate pain relief medicines if you have significant pain from the biopsy.

What Happens After the Biopsy?

After the tissue is collected and preserved, it's delivered to a pathologist. Pathologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing conditions based on tissue samples and other tests. (In some cases, the doctor collecting the sample can diagnose the condition.)

A pathologist examines the biopsy tissue under a microscope. By noting the tissue cells' type, shape, and internal activity, in most cases a pathologist can diagnose the problem.

The time it takes to get results from a biopsy can vary. During a surgery, a pathologist may read a biopsy and report back to a surgeon in a few minutes. Final, highly accurate conclusions on biopsies often take a week or longer. You will probably follow up with your regular doctor to discuss the biopsy results.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on June 28, 2015
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