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.
Incidence and Mortality
Estimated new cases and deaths from vulvar cancer in the United States in 2011:
New cases: 4,340.
Vulvar cancer is primarily a disease of elderly women but has been observed in premenopausal women as well. It is most commonly squamous cell carcinoma in type, though other histologic types do occur. Vulvar cancer is highly curable when diagnosed in an early stage.
Survival is most dependent on the pathologic status of the inguinal nodes....
Biopsies are most often done to look for cancer. But biopsies can help identify many other conditions.
A biopsy might be recommended whenever there is an important medical question the biopsy could help answer. Here are just a few examples:
A mammogram shows a lump or mass, indicating the possibility of breast cancer.
A mole on the skin has changed shape recently and melanoma is possible.
A person has chronic hepatitis and it's important to know if cirrhosis is present.
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.
Bone marrow biopsy. A large needle is used to enter the pelvis bone to collect bone marrow. This detects blood diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Liver biopsy. A needle is injected into the liver through the skin on the belly, capturing liver tissue.
Kidney biopsy. Similar to a liver biopsy, a needle is injected through the skin on the back, into the kidney.
Aspiration biopsy. A needle withdraws material out of a mass. This simple procedure is also called fine-needle aspiration.
Prostate biopsy. Multiple needle biopsies are taken at one time from the prostate gland. To reach the prostate, a probe is inserted into the rectum.
Skin biopsy. A punch biopsy is the main biopsy method. It uses a circular blade to get a cylindrical sample of skin tissue.
Surgical biopsy. Either open or laparoscopic surgery may be necessary to obtain a biopsy of hard-to-reach tissue. Either a piece of tissue or the whole lump of tissue may be removed.