A needle biopsy is a medical procedure that uses a long thin needle and a syringe to extract cells, tissue, and fluid from a lump or any part of the body for further observation or testing in a laboratory. A needle biopsy obtains test samples from the bones, muscles, and organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart. The procedure takes place after the detection of a lump or abnormality in the body. For instance, during diagnostic radiography, masses, tumors, or lesions may be detected, which calls for further tests to understand what they are and if they pose any health risks. A biopsy helps further analyze the findings.
Why is a Needle Biopsy Important?
Your doctor may not know the cause of a lump, growth, or illness unless through biopsy analysis. It also reveals whether a detected tumor or cyst is malignant, infectious, or benign. It’s through the test that your doctor gets to know the cause of an infection, lump, or inflammation.
Is Needle Biopsy Painful
The needle is inserted into your body to draw sample materials from the affected area during the procedure. The process can be uncomfortable and painful for a few days, but use prescribed or over the counter medications to control the pain. You will be under IV sedatives or general anesthesia during the biopsy, so you will not feel any pain. Any discomfort or pain you will feel will be after the procedure, but the doctor will have prepared you with enough pain control medications.
Preparing for the Needle Biopsy
The needle biopsy is a scheduled procedure that takes place at your doctor’s office or designated facility. Your doctor will brief you in advance on what you should or shouldn’t do before the procedure. For instance, you may have to stop taking some medications containing blood thinners such as aspirin. You may also be requested not to eat or drink before the biopsy. In some cases, you may have to fast for up to 8 hours before the procedure. However, this depends on the biopsy area. It’s vital that you inform your doctor of any medications you are taking, including supplements and whether you have any allergies and detail all known illnesses. If you suspect to be pregnant, make sure to have a pregnancy test before the procedure and give your doctor the results.
A needle is a minimally intrusive procedure with a reduced downtime compared with an open or closed biopsy. The biopsy is done by a radiologist, an interventional radiologist, or a neuroradiologist. Usually, it’s on an outpatient basis. The doctor will decide whether to use general anesthesia or IV sedation, which he communicates in advance.
The effects of the sedation or anesthesia may be felt long after you are awake. Have someone to drive you home and be with you for at least the day. Arrange for someone to take care of house chores and children for a day or two or until you feel better. During this period, limit movements, rest well and don’t do strenuous tasks. If possible, get a few days off work.
What Happens During the Biopsy?
On the biopsy date, don’t wear deodorant, lotions, perfume, earrings, or necklaces. Also, wear clothes that can be removed easily, such as two-piece outfits. You may be required to remove your clothes and put on a gown, then lie on the examination table. A team of health care providers ensures that you are well-positioned for the procedure then IV or general anesthesia is administered.
You may feel a little pain when the anesthesia is injected into your skin, making you relax and sleep during the procedure. But that’s the only pain you will feel throughout the biopsy, and it lasts a few seconds. Depending on the biopsy area, the doctor may request scans before the procedure to better understand the target area and plan how to carry out the exercise. He may also have a CT scan or ultrasound as he carries out the biopsy. After sedation, the area where the needle will pass through is cleaned, and the procedure starts. The needle is guided to the target area, a sample is extracted, and then the needle is withdrawn. The process is repeated several times until enough sample is collected.
The biopsy method used depends on whether the doctor wants to draw body cells or tissue for testing. A fine-needle aspiration technique occurs when extracting cells. The needle is thin and hollow, making it suitable for cell extraction. Core needle biopsy occurs when drawing tissues from the target region. The needle used in a core biopsy is wider than the one used to extract cells. If you are awake during the procedure and feel any pain or discomfort, let the doctor know.
After the procedure, you may be transferred to another room to rest until you are fully awake. The doctors may want to have you stay in the facility for observation for several hours, depending on the biopsy area. When permitted to go home, have someone drive you and take it easy for the rest of the day or two. Also, talk to your doctor about when it is safe for you to return to work.
Immediately after extraction, the biopsy sample is transferred to a laboratory for analysis. The results are communicated to your doctor in a few days, and then you can go through the results together in a scheduled consultation.
You may feel some pain or numbness on the spot where the needle was inserted immediately after the sedative or anesthetic wears out. The pain, tingling, and bruising should go away in a day or two but watch out for bleeding. Take enough rest and don’t do strenuous tasks to avoid bleeding. If you notice any bleeding, call your doctor, especially if the wound has opened up and started bleeding afresh. Additionally, if you develop a fever, escalating pain, a discharge from the biopsy site, or swelling, call your doctor immediately.
Waiting for the Results
The wait can be stressful but try to keep calm and distract your thoughts. Worrying cannot change the biopsy results; therefore, get activities that cheer you up and talk to friends or loved ones about your concerns. Idleness makes you worry more, get out of the house, meet friends, or involve yourself in activities that direct your energy elsewhere.
The Biopsy Results
When the samples are taken to the lab, a pathologist, a doctor specializing in studying cell and tissue samples, analyses the specimen, then records the findings for your doctor. You may get a copy of the report, but you may not understand the technical language used, but your doctor can explain everything to you. After receiving the information, the doctor schedules an appointment when you can go through the report together. The report details the following:
The sample- This part of the report details the type of specimen used, mode of collection, and general appearance of the tissue or cells. The information may indicate the number of samples or slides taken to the lab, the color, and the specimen’s consistency.
The Specimen Description – This part of the report may describe how the cells, tissue, or fluid looks under a microscope detailing the number of cells, type, and appearance. The information may also indicate any dyes used to distinguish and study the cells.
The Diagnosis- This is the most crucial part. It concludes the biopsy findings and makes recommendations such as more tests or the necessary medical care. The next cause of action depends on the diagnosis.
Does Biopsy Mean Cancer?
Most people conclude that they have cancer when a doctor recommends a biopsy. The truth is not all tumors, lumps, or masses are malignant. Until the diagnosis discovers cancerous cells, you shouldn’t worry or conclude that you have cancer. Only 1 in 10 tumors is cancerous. Most tumors cause no harm and may not even need removal unless they pose a risk to vital organs or multiply fast.