If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope. There are two types of biopsy:
- Needle biopsy – A needle is put into the tumour through the skin to remove a small part of it. This test can be done under a local anaesthetic.
- Open biopsy – A piece of the tumour is taken during a small operation using a general anaesthetic. The surgeon may sometimes be able to remove the entire tumour rather than just take a sample.
The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.