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Urology Care Foundation The Official Foundation of the American Urological Association

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Biopsy

A biopsy is conducted by removing a sample of skin or tissue from a patient's body for examination under a microscope to diagnose a medical condition, especially cancer.

A biopsy can be obtained of the skin by removing a small amount of tissue with a special instrument. This can be done with local anesthesia to avoid pain. Biopsies of the prostate or kidney are typically obtained with specially designed needles that allow for the removal of small amounts of tissue. The needle is guided with ultrasound or special X-rays such as a CT scan. Biopsies can also be obtained from the bladder or ureter with specially designed endoscopes that are passed into these structures through normal urine passageways.

After the biopsy specimen is obtained, it is sent for examination to a pathologist, who prepares a written report with information designed to help the doctor manage the patient's condition properly.



Reviewed January 2011

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Biopsy Glossary
  • anesthesia: Loss of sensation in any part of the body induced by a numbing or paralyzing agent. Often used during surgery to put a person to sleep.

  • biopsy: A procedure in which a tiny piece of a body part (tissue sample), such as the kidney or bladder, is removed (with a needle or during surgery) for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

  • bladder: The bladder is a thick muscular balloon-shaped pouch in which urine is stored before being discharged through the urethra.

  • cancer: An abnormal growth that can invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body and may be a threat to life.

  • CT scan: Also known as computerized tomography, computerized axial tomography or CT scan. A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body. Shows detailed images of any part of the body, including bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • endoscope: A lighted medical instrument consisting of a long tube inserted into the body, usually through a small incision. It is used for diagnostic examination and surgical procedures.

  • kidney: One of two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood and discharge these waste products in urine. The kidneys are located on either side at the level of the 12th ribs toward the back. The kidneys send urine to the bladder through tubes called ureters.

  • local anesthesia: Loss of sensation only in one part of the body induced by application of an anesthetic agent.

  • pathologist: A physician who interprets and diagnoses the changes caused by disease in tissues and body fluids.

  • prostate: A walnut-shaped gland in men that surrounds the urethra at the neck of the bladder. The prostate supplies fluid that goes into semen.

  • tissue: Group of cells in an organism that are similar in form and function.

  • ultrasound: Also referred to as a sonogram. A technique that bounces painless sound waves off organs to create an image of their structure to detect abnormalities.

  • ureter: One of two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

  • urine: Liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder and expelled from the body through the urethra by the act of urinating (voiding). About 96 percent of which is water and the rest waste products.

  • void: To urinate, empty the bladder.

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