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Home > Patient Care > Testing & Diagnosis > Biopsy & Pathology

Biopsy & Pathology

An image of a female technician or doctor looking through a stereo microscope

Biopsies and pathologist examination are critical to diagnosing cancer.

Biopsy involves removing a sample of tissue from a suspected tumor and sending it to a pathologist for examination.

Any organ in the body can be biopsied using a variety of techniques, some of which require major surgery, such as staging splenectomy for Hodgkin lymphoma, while others do not even require local anesthesia, including fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid, breast, lung, liver and other body sites.

Types of biopsies include:

  • Needle biopsy — cells are removed using a thin needle
  • Aspiration biopsy — cells are drawn out with a hollow needle that uses suction
  • Core needle biopsy — a sample of tissue is removed using a hollow core needle that has a special cutting edge
  • Vacuum-assisted biopsy — a number of samples of tissue are taken using a special rotating probe
  • Endoscopic biopsy — the area is viewed with a long, thin tube that has a lighted camera on one end; a tool is passed through the tube to take the biopsy sample
  • Incisional biopsy — a portion of a mass is removed by cutting it out
  • Excisional biopsy — a mass is completely removed, such as a breast lump
  • Punch biopsy — a core of skin is removed with a special biopsy tool
  • Skin biopsy — a small piece of skin is cut off with a scalpel
  • Shave biopsy — top layers of skin are shaved off with a special blade
  • Bone marrow biopsy — a long needle is inserted into the bone marrow to collect cells