Some individuals who are suspected of having cancer may need to undergo a tissue biopsy to determine the underlying cause of their symptoms. In a biopsy, a tissue sample is removed from an individual's body and sent to a lab to be examined underneath a microscope. This examination reveals abnormal cells that may be cancerous or precancerous. Some biopsies can be performed with an endoscopic procedure. Others are guided with the use of diagnostic imaging like magnetic resonance imaging, computerized scans, or ultrasound.
The most common parts of the body that are biopsied due to suspected malignancy include the breast, bone marrow, lungs, bladder, lymph nodes, skin, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and colon. Depending on the shape, size, characteristics, and location of the abnormality, the patient's doctor determines which method is used to carry out the biopsy. Some biopsies of lumps just underneath the skin can be performed with a sterile needle and do not require imaging guidance to carry out. When a needle removes any substance from a mass in an individual's body using a needle, it is called an aspiration biopsy.