What Is an Endometrial Biopsy?

An endometrial biopsy is a way for your doctor to check for problems in your uterus. That’s the pear-shaped organ in your lower belly that holds a baby during pregnancy.

The procedure takes just a few minutes and is often done in your doctor’s office. It’s very safe.

Who Gets This Test?

Your doctor may do this type of biopsy if your Pap test shows that you have “precancerous” cells in your uterus. She could also suggest one if you have any of these symptoms:

An endometrial biopsy can’t fix or stop any of these symptoms. But it can help your doctor learn what may be wrong.

What Happens

Most of the time, you can get this test done in your doctor’s office. You won’t need anesthesia, but your doctor may suggest you take an over-the-counter pain reliever 30 minutes before your visit.

The procedure usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.

You’ll lay on an exam table with your feet resting in stirrups, just like you would for a Pap smear. Your doctor will insert a device called a speculum into your vagina. This holds it open during the procedure.

After your cervix is cleaned, your doctor will numb the area. She can do this with a special spray or by injecting medicine.

Next, she’ll insert a very thin, flexible tool to gently suction out a tissue sample from the lining (endometrium) of your uterus. This will then be sent to a lab so it can be looked at under a microscope and tested for abnormal cells like cancer.

Risks

While an endometrial biopsy is safe, there is a chance of bleeding and infection. The wall of your uterus could also get nicked by the tools used during the biopsy, but this is very rare.

If you think you may be pregnant, make sure to tell your doctor ahead of time. The biopsy could cause you to miscarry.

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After the Procedure

It’s common to have some light spotting after this type of biopsy. You may also have some cramping. If so, ask your doctor which over-the-counter pain relievers are safe for you to take. Some, like aspirin, could make you bleed more.

You can return to your normal routine as soon as you feel able, but skip sex until all your bleeding has stopped.

What the Results Mean

You should get the lab results back in about a week. The possible causes of your abnormal bleeding could be:

Your doctor will go over the results with you. Based on what they reveal, she’ll also explain if any treatment is needed.

There’s also a chance that your results will come back inconclusive. This means that it’s unclear whether or not you have cancer cells in your uterus. If so, you may need to have a more involved medical procedure called a dilation and curettage (D&C). During a D&C, your doctor will scrape a bigger sample of tissue from the lining of your uterus for testing at a lab.

Endometrial biopsies aren’t perfect. Because they take a random tissue sample, they can sometimes miss precancerous or cancerous growths. If your symptoms don’t go away, tell your doctor. You may need to have another type of test to get more information.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on February 15, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Endometrial Biopsy.”

Mayo Clinic: “Endometrial Cancer.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Endometrial Biopsy.”

Derby Teaching Hospitals/NHS Foundation Trust: “Having an inpatient hysteroscopy and endometrial biopsy.”

American Academy of Family Physicians/Familydoctor.org: “Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.”

American Cancer Society: “How is Uterine Sarcoma Diagnosed?”

NYU Langone Medical Center/Perlmutter Cancer Center: “Diagnosing Endometrial Cancer.”

American Family Physician: “Endometrial Biopsy.”

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