A biopsy is an invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose or rule out cancer. If your doctor has reason to suspect that your child has cancer, he can take a sample of tissue from your child’s body – a biopsy – to examine.
Types of biopsies
Many people have heard of a biopsy in relation to breast cancer – where a small piece of the breast lump is removed for examination. But biopsies can also be done on other types of tissue as well.
- Bone marrow biopsies are used to collect a small sample of bone marrow
- Colposcopies are used to collect a small sample of cervical tissue
- Endoscopic biopsies are used to collect a small sample of tissue from the mouth or anus
- Excisional biopsies are used to remove an entire lump (as in breast cancer)
- Incisional biopsies are used to remove a small piece of a lump (as in a muscle)
- Needle biopsies use a hypodermic needle to remove a small sample of a lump
- Punch biopsies are used to collect a skin sample
- Stereotactic biopsies use x-rays to guide a needle to a lump that may be hard to see or feel
What to expect
Most biopsies are pretty simple procedures, but even simple procedures can be scary to a child. You child may receive general or local anesthesia to numb the area before the biopsy so that she doesn’t feel any pain during the procedure. She may have some pain afterward, so your doctor may prescribe pain medications. Many biopsies are done on an outpatient basis, and your child may be able to go home the same day.
Encourage your child to rest for a few hours after her biopsy. You’ll need to help her keep the biopsy area clean to prevent infection. She may also experience some numbness in the area of the procedure. Report any excessive bleeding to the doctor right away.
It’s very important to follow up with the doctor after a biopsy to discuss the results of the procedure. Be sure to ask the doctor when you should contact him for the results.
Related cancer tests and treatments articles
- Read about chemotherapy
- Discover what radiotherapy is
- Learn more about lumbar puncture
- Understand steroid treatment
- Find out more about cat scans
- What is an MRI?
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health, and Health Insite.
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