Tumor Biopsy

A tumor biopsy is a test in which a small piece of tumor or tissue is taken out of the body to be examined for cancer cells. This procedure is done to determine the exact type of cancer that is present. A biopsy can also be done to determine whether the treatment has gotten rid of cancer cells or to monitor continued remission.

There are two types of biopsies that are performed. The exact procedure depends upon the area that needs to be biopsied and the patient’s age.
  • A closed biopsy is when a needle is put into the tissue to obtain a sample without cutting open the skin
  • An open biopsy is when the skin is opened during surgery to get a sample of tissue
Some biopsies are done in the operating room under general anesthesia (completely asleep). Other biopsies are done using local anesthesia to numb the skin. The type of anesthesia used will depend on the location of the biopsy.

Side Effects of Biopsies

  • Pain is the most common side effect.
  • Sometimes a child may get a skin infection at the entry site, but this is very uncommon.
  • Bleeding sometimes occurs under the skin or deep where the needle was placed, causing a black and blue mark.
  • Your doctor can explain what to watch for following the biopsy.

Tips for Parents

  • You should always feel free to ask questions about what is going to happen. If your child understands what will happen, it will help him or her feel more comfortable and less anxious.
  • Books, magazines, games or music may help keep your child entertained while waiting for the biopsy to begin.
  • If your child has regular biopsies it can be helpful to have rituals for after the biopsy. Examples of rituals include having your child’s favorite drink, easy to digest food or favorite games available after the procedure.

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The information and content provided on this website is made available for informational purposes only for children and their families affected by cancer. While the Children's Oncology Group strives to provide accurate and up-to-date information, the information may be out of date or incomplete in certain respects. Please do not rely on this information and seek the care of a qualified medical professional if you have questions regarding a specific medical condition, disease, diagnosis or symptom. The information and content presented herein is not intended to replace the independent clinical judgement, medical advice, screening, health counseling, or other intervention performed by your (or your child's) health care provider. Please contact "911" or your emergency services if this is a health emergency. No endorsement of any specific tests, products, or procedures is made herein.