When your doctor removes a samples of tissue to study it under a microscope, that’s called a biopsy. It is frequently used to diagnose cancer or to rule cancer out. Sample tissue is treated with chemicals and sliced into thin sections. These slices are then placed on glass slides, stained to improve contrast and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist, a hematologist or both. Pathologists are trained in evaluating body tissues, while hematologists specialize in blood and blood-forming tissues. Examining the sample of tissue can help these professionals identify cancers and what stage the cancers are. Your doctor can remove sample tissue several ways:
Using a thin needle and a syringe, your doctor removes small pieces of tissue from a tumor. These pieces are then studied under a microscope to identify any abnormalities.
In this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) into an opening in your body, such as your rectum or mouth and throat. The endoscope contains a fiber-optic light and a video camera at its tip. The camera lens transmits images to an external monitor so that your doctor can look closely at areas inside your body. If the doctor sees abnormal looking tissue, he or she can insert instruments through the endoscope to remove sample tissue.
Your doctor makes an incision through your skin and removes either an entire tumor (excisional biopsy) or a portion of a tumor (incisional biopsy). In some cases you may only need local anesthesia. Other times, such as when a tumor is inside your chest, your doctor may use general anesthesia.
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