One of the most important tests is a biopsy, because it provides doctors with information about the type of cell the cancer developed from. Different tests are then done on the cells from the biopsy.

It’s not always possible to do a biopsy. Sometimes the cancer is too difficult to reach or a person is too unwell to have the procedure. Your specialist will discuss this with you and, if necessary, arrange other tests instead.

What happens?

During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue or a sample of cells is removed so that it can be examined under a microscope. Sometimes a scan or ultrasound is used to help the doctor guide a biopsy needle to the exact area.

Some biopsies can be done as an out-patient, but you may need a short stay in hospital if the biopsy is of an area or organ inside the body.

There are different types of biopsy – your specialist will explain which is best for you.

Main types of biopsy

Depending on your type of cancer, you may have an:

  • Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) biopsy
  • Core Needle biopsy
  • Surgical biopsy
  • Excision biopsy
  • Cone biopsy

See the information about your type of cancer, for more about which biopsy you may need.

Other types of biopsy

Other less frequently used types of biopsy include:

  • Open biopsy
  • Vacuum assisted biopsy
  • Wire (guided) localisation
  • Incision biopsy
  • Image guided biopsy

Information about your type of cancer includes a list of possible tests and scans.