A biopsy is a minor surgical procedure during which a small piece of tissue or aspiration of fluid is collected from some part of the body. Usually, the procedure is done through a needle. The tissue or fluid is examined by a laboratory under a microscope to look for signs of infection or disease such as cancer.
The approach to a biopsy depends on the body part being biopsied. For example, during a breast biopsy, the doctor may simply insert a needle into a fluid-filled cyst and withdraw the fluid into a hypodermic syringe. An excision breast biopsy requires a very small incision in the breast, through which a small instrument cuts and extracts a bit of tissue for examination. Common forms of biopsy include:
Depending on the area being biopsies, the procedure may take anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes or more. For example, a liver biopsy may take longer than a skin mole biopsy. Lab result times may also vary. Before the biopsy is performed, you'll be given an injection of a local anesthetic so you won't feel the actual needle aspiration or tissue collection process. In some cases, a biopsy of suspicious tissue or fluid may be performed during a surgery procedure, so collection time and examination by a pathologist is usually performed very quickly.