A biopsy is a specimen of tissue, removed from a live subject, used for examination by a pathologist. A biopsy is normally carried out when there are abnormal results from a test. A biopsy is commonly used to diagnose cancer, but that is not the only benefit. There are multiples types of a biopsy which generally require a sample of tissue from a particular area.

A pathologist will diagnose a patient’s condition based on the shape, activity and cell type of the tissue sample. Samples are usually examined under microscope, other than a pathologist a hematologist might be consulted as well. The pathologist creates a report to whoever requested the biopsy, detailing abnormal findings and important details. In cases of cancer the biopsy may reveal if it is malignant or benign, or how advanced the cancer is.

A biopsy can reveal a multitude of scenarios, including:

Cancer – Determines if abnormal masses are benign or malignant.

Peptic ulcer – Determines if there is ulceration caused by drugs.

Liver biopsy- Can determine cancer as well as if the patient is responding well to certain treatments.

Infection – Needle biopsy can help identify infections and what organism is causing it.

Inflammation – Determines the cause for inflammation by observing cells.

Transplanted organs – Some patient’s bodies will reject transplanted organs, a biopsy is necessary to determine if the body is rejecting the organ or if the cause for the transplant has returned.

Public education for a biopsy is quite straightforward, general and easy to obtain and find. This is a surgical procedure where the patient usually only has symptoms of pain or possibly a skin infection, generally a doctor will tell patients what to look for after a biopsy. A patient’s doctor usually has to communicate with other professionals, mainly a pathologist, in the field in order to understand the results of the biopsy. This communication can take place physically or electronically through a report if the condition for the biopsy requires it.

Related terminology: blood test, scan, minimally invasive, intervention

Citation/References: Nordqvist, C. (2014, September 15). "What is a biopsy? What are biopsies used for?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from

Biopsy: Types, What to Expect, and Uses. (2012, May 7). Retrieved October 26, 2014, from