Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before a Biopsy

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

A biopsy is a sample of tissue removed by your doctor to make a precise diagnosis. Biopsy procedures can range from a simple sampling of skin under local anesthesia to surgical opening of the chest wall to remove a portion of lung tissue. Biopsies may also be obtained during diagnostic procedures such as endoscopy, colonoscopy, bronchoscopy, and others. Sometimes doctors perform biopsies using a CAT scan or other radiological imaging techniques to help identify the exact area to be sampled and avoid injury to surrounding organs. There are several types of biopsies.

Excisional biopsy. If your doctor finds an area of interest or a suspicious finding (for example, an enlarged nevus, or mole), often an excisional biopsy is performed to remove the area in question in its entirety during the biopsy.

Incisional biopsy. An incisional biopsy refers to removal of only a portion of the area of interest (for example, sampling of a small fragment of tissue from a larger breast lump).