What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure that takes a sample of tissue or fluid, or a growth of cells from your body. Your healthcare provider sends this sample to a laboratory to be tested and uses the test results to help diagnose a condition or disease. Biopsies are used to test for cancer, to diagnose other disorders, or to see if you are a match for an organ transplant.

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Biopsies are usually safe procedures. However, there are potential risks and side effects, including the following:


Pain will usually be minor. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience severe pain after your biopsy.


Sometimes the biopsy site can become infected. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any redness, swelling, or drainage at the biopsy site, or if you develop a fever after the biopsy. These symptoms can be signs of infection.

Excessive Bleeding

Because the biopsy test only cuts a small part of your skin, there usually is not excessive bleeding. Contact your healthcare provider if the wound keeps bleeding or does not heal.

Allergic Reactions

Sometimes the antibiotic, numbing gel, or bandages used in the biopsy removal can cause an allergic reaction on your skin. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice redness or itching at the biopsy site.

What are the benefits?

A biopsy will not cure a disease or disorder, but it can help your healthcare provider diagnose problems. If you are diagnosed with a disease like cancer, your provider can examine the test results to decide on the best treatment for you.

How do I prepare?

Depending on the type of biopsy, your healthcare provider may tell you to take additional steps before your procedure. Be sure to follow all instructions. Before your biopsy, tell your healthcare provider:


If you are pregnant


If you have a latex allergy


What medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines.


What vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you are taking.

How is it done?

During a biopsy procedure, your healthcare provider takes a small sample of tissue or liquid from a part of your body. To perform this procedure, your healthcare provider will

  • Place you in a position that is comfortable and allows access to the part of your body that is being biopsied.
  • Sterilize the skin over the area being biopsied and apply a numbing gel so that the procedure will not hurt.

The type of biopsy depends on the condition and the biopsy site. Common biopsies include the following:

Endoscopic Biopsy

An endoscope is a small, flexible tube that can be easily inserted into the body without large cuts.

Needle Biopsy

Special needles remove samples of tissue or cells through the skin.

Skin Biopsy

A sample of skin is removed and tested.

Surgical Biopsy

Requires cutting through the skin to reach the tissue sample.

After the Procedure

After the doctor has taken the sample, they will do the following:

  • Close the wound with stitches (if needed) to help it heal faster.
  • Protect the wound with bandages to prevent infection and aid healing.
  • Send your biopsy sample to a medical laboratory for testing.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will I know the results?

You will receive your results in 2 – 10 days, depending on the sample and tests.