Brain biopsy

Cancer researchers in lab

A biopsy means taking and testing a small sample of tissue from your brain for examination under a microscope. A biopsy is the only sure way to find out what type of brain tumour you have and how fast it is growing (the grade). You may have a biopsy as part of an operation (surgery) to remove all or part of your tumour.

Before the test

You will have an MRI or CT scan to show where the tumour is.

Will I have pain relief / anaesthetic?

You will be put to sleep for the biopsy (general anaesthetic).

During the test

First, your doctor will make a small hole in your skull (burr hole) and put a fine needle in to collect the tissue samples.

You may have a head frame fitted to help the surgeon to pinpoint exactly the right place.

Does it hurt?

During the test you will be asleep so you won’t feel anything.

After the test

You will need to stay in hospital for several days after the biopsy. Some hospitals may do the surgery as a day case, which means you do not need to stay in hospital overnight. In this case, you will need someone to come to the ward to collect you and drive you home.

The biopsy is sent to the laboratory and examined by a doctor called a pathologist. It can take 1-2 weeks for the results to come back. If a sample of tumour is sent for genetic profiling it will take longer for your test results to come back.

For more information

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