Home Diseases Guide Diagnosing cancer : Different types of biopsy

Diagnosing cancer : Different types of biopsy

Biopsy to detect cancer cells

You would have heard or seen the curse of cancer in life’s of some or the other known member of your life. It does leave a pain not just to the body of the sufferer but also to the mental strength of his loved ones. There are many types of cancer which can affect both men and women irrespective of their age or color.Cancer is actually a heterogeneous disease in which a group of cells get into an uncontrolled growth referred as tumors, which in turn affect the tissues, and sometimes spreads beyond through lymphatic system or the bloodstream to enter into other locations in the body. Cancer has been considered as one of the most life-threatening disease. The causes of cancer have been classified into environmental and genetic.Thanks to today’s advanced medical system, which has enabled a cure to many types of cancers, however, the only perquisite is to have it detected early and start the treatment systematically.


The next question in our mind would be how to detect the presence of cancer? Researchers and doctors across globe have put in serious efforts to bring in technologically advanced screening mechanism and medication.

Biopsy is one of the main and primarily screening technique to confirm whether a person has a cancerous cell or not. In this procedure, a piece of tissue or a sample of cells are removed from the given symptomatic patient and tested in a specially equipped laboratory. Though there are imaging screenings and X-rays available to detect the symptoms but in majority of cases, cancer biopsy is the only possible and effective screening method.

Biopsy is done as per the type of the cancer. Here are some of the main types of biopsy procedure used to detect forms of cancers and other diseases:

1. Bone Marrow Biopsy

Bone marrow biopsy is done to diagnose number of blood-related issues other than cancerous like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The doctor will prescribe this procedure only when needed after preliminary examination.

In bone marrow biopsy, a sample of spongy soft tissue from inside bone called marrow is removed mainly from the hip bone. This marrow, which is found in the hollow part of most bones, is the main helping agent to form blood cells.

It is a simple surgical procedure where your doctor would inject a numbing medicine into the area and insert a biopsy needle into the bone to squeeze a sample of marrow. Once the procedure is finished, bandage dressing is done to the area.

2. Endoscopic Biopsy

This common biopsy method is done to determine the abnormality on the lining of organ by taking the tissue from within. Here a fiberoptic endoscope, which is light and a flexible tube, is inserted into the suspected part of body to be examined such as gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder, abdominal cavity, joint cavity, mid-portion chest and bronchial system. It can facilitate not just detection but also can cut the abnormal lining with the help of special tool attached to this tube.

The procedure is simple and live to the doctor who can watch the internal picture in a monitor. It is again a simple procedure, which varies in its methodology depending on the type of endoscopies required.

3. Needle Biopsy

Needle aspiration biopsy (NAB) is also known as fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC), fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) and fine needle aspiration (FNA). It is a minor surgical method to screen the abnormalities from the sample cells extracted. It is the most safest and simple form of biopsy, which can prevent unnecessary efforts for a major surgical examination.

Here a special needle is inserted into the mass to extract cells from a suspicious area. It is mainly used to detect tumors, which can be felt by touch like breast lumps or enlarged lymph nodes. This examination needs to be analyzed with an imaging procedure such as X-ray to provide any conclusions.

Needle biopsy procedures come in various forms such as fine-needle aspiration, core needle biopsy, vacuum-assisted biopsy and image-guided biopsy. These procedures are done as needed and instructed by the doctor.

4. Skin Biopsy

Skin biopsy, which involved removing cell from the skin surface of the body, is used to detect skin conditions and skin cancer named melanoma. Again the type of skin biopsy depends on the type of cancer suspected.

The various types of skin biopsy includes shave biopsy, punch biopsy, incisional biopsy and excision biopsy.

5. Surgical Biopsy

If these simple biopsy procedures mentioned above do not suffice to detect the real picture then the doctor advices a surgical biopsy. Here a qualified surgeon inserts a needle into the suspected body portion of the patient after due anesthesia. This procedure not only helps in detecting but also is used in cutting and removing the grown abnormal lumps or linings fully (excision biopsy) or partially (incisional biopsy). Breast cancer diagnosis and lymph node removal of lymphoma detection are such examples for these procedures.

What after Biopsy?

The main reason for a biopsy is to rule out any abnormality in the blood cells or marrow or tissues within as root to cancerous and other diseases. Hence once the sample tissue/cell is collected, it is carefully analyzed in a qualified laboratory. It can be treated chemically or cut into slices after freezing the samples. Through a microscope, its nature is studied to examine the real picture.

The results, if cancerous, help to conclude the origin place and type of that particular cancer in the body and follow necessary treatment. It also provides a detailed overview of the level of cancer between grades 1- 4 where least being low grade or just started and highest being high grade and acute.

The results can be obtained within minutes or day of two depending on the type of biopsy undertaken.

These biopsy methods are advanced and simple making detection of cancer no more a serious issue, also it enables effective treatment and cure of certain cancers. Next time you hear of biopsy, you know there is nothing so complicated about it.