Peritoneal biopsy

A peritoneal biopsy is a diagnostic test that takes a sample of tissue from the peritoneum to see if it contains cancer cells.

What is a peritoneal biopsy?

Your doctor may suggest a biopsy of the peritoneum (lining that covers the organs in the tummy) to help diagnose peritoneal mesothelioma. During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed so that it can be looked at under a microscope. It can be done in 2 ways.


A laparoscopy allows the doctor to look at other areas in your tummy (abdomen) and take more biopsies if needed. It is done under general anaesthetic. Your doctor will make a small cut in the tummy wall. They will put a thin tube with a light and camera at the end (laparoscope) into your tummy.

They can then take a small biopsy of the peritoneum. They will also check nearby organs to see if the mesothelioma has spread.

CT or ultrasound guided biopsy

The doctor will give you a local anaesthetic to numb the area. They use an ultrasound or a CT scan to help guide them to the right place. Then, they pass a special type of needle through your skin into the area they want to take a biopsy from. The needle has a tip that can cut out a small sample of tissue.

After the biopsy

Having a biopsy can be uncomfortable but should not be painful. If you have any pain during or after the procedure, tell your doctor or nurse.

After the doctor has taken the biopsy, they will send it to the laboratory. A doctor who looks at cells or body tissue under a microscope to diagnose cancer (pathologist) will look at the biopsy.

Sometimes, even after taking a biopsy, the doctors may not be sure of the diagnosis. This is because it can be difficult to find the difference between peritoneal mesothelioma and some other cancers and illnesses.

If this happens, the samples may be sent to specialist laboratories to confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes you may need to have a test done again, or you may be referred to another hospital for a second opinion.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our mesothelioma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Woolhouse I et al. British Thoracic Society Guideline for the investigation and management of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Thorax. 2018.

    Thomas A et al. Mesothelioma. BMJ Best Practice. 2019.

    Baas P et al. Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.  Annals of Oncology. 26 (Supplement 5): v31–v39. 2015. Available from:

    Kusamara S et al. Peritoneal mesothelioma: PSOGI/EURACAN clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. European Journal of Surgical Oncology. March 2020.

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr David Gilligan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 August 2021
Next review: 01 August 2024
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.