A biopsy is a sample of tissue taken from the body in order to examine it more closely. A doctor should recommend a biopsy when an initial test suggests an area of tissue in the body isn't normal.
Doctors may call an area of abnormal tissue a lesion, a tumor, or a mass. These are general words, used to emphasize the unknown nature of the tissue. The suspicious area may be noticed during a physical examination or inside the body on an imaging test.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
BCC and SCC are the most common forms of skin cancer and are collectively referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancers. This summary only covers the treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancers. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Melanoma Treatment for more information.)
Incidence and Mortality
Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the United States...
In some cases, a biopsy of normal-appearing tissue may be done. This can help check for cancer spread or rejection of a transplanted organ.
In most cases, a biopsy is done to diagnose a problem or to help determine the best therapy option.
Types of Biopsies
There are many different kinds of biopsies. Nearly all of them involve using a sharp tool to remove a small amount of tissue. If the biopsy will be on the skin or other sensitive area, numbing medicine is applied first.
Here are some types of biopsies:
Needle biopsy. Most biopsies are needle biopsies, meaning a needle is used to access the suspicious tissue.
CT-guided biopsy. A person rests in a CT-scanner; the scanner's images help doctors determine the exact position of the needle in the targeted tissue.
Ultrasound-guided biopsy. An ultrasound scanner helps a doctor direct the needle into the lesion.
Bone biopsy. A bone biopsy is used to look for cancer of the bones. This may be performed via the CT scan technique or by an orthopedic surgeon.