Interventional Radiology

Biopsies

Cancer Diagnosis

There are a number of tests that can help in the diagnosis of cancer, including blood tests, physical examination and a variety of imaging techniques including X-rays (e.g., chest X-rays and mammograms); computed tomography (CT); magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound. Usually, however, the final diagnosis is made based on a biopsy. In a biopsy, a sample of tissue from the tumor or other abnormality is obtained and examined by a pathologist using a microscope. By examining and performing tests on the biopsy sample, pathologists and other experts can determine what kind of cancer is present, whether it is likely to be fast or slow growing, and what genetic abnormalities it may have. This information is important in deciding the best type of treatment. Open surgery is sometimes performed to obtain a biopsy, but in most cases, tissue samples can be obtained without open surgery using interventional radiology techniques.

Needle biopsy

Needle biopsy, also called image-guided biopsy, is usually performed using computed tomography (CT), real-time X-ray (fluoroscopy), ultrasound, or magnetic resonance (MR) to guide the procedure. In the most difficult cases, needle biopsies are performed with the aid of equipment that creates a computer-generated image and allows radiologists to see an area inside the body from various angles. This "stereotactic" equipment helps them pinpoint the exact location of the abnormal tissue and to avoid injuring normal tissue.

Biopsies may involve techniques called "fine needle biopsy" or "core biopsy," depending on the amount of material needed, the consistency of the tissue, and whether infection or other diagnoses are being considered. Both require use of long skinny needles, skinnier than an IV. Most are performed with local anesthetic and sedation only without the need for general anesthesia. Patients go home with nothing more than a band-aid.

Needle biopsy is typically an outpatient procedure with very infrequent complications; less than 1 percent of patients develop bleeding or infection. In about 90 percent of patients, needle biopsy provides enough tissue for the pathologist to arrive at a diagnosis.

Needle biopsy facts:

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