Biopsies for children

A needle in a cell

A biopsy is a small sample of tissue removed from the body.

The sample is examined under a microscope by a doctor called a pathologist to see if it contains cancer cells or to give your doctor information about the type of cancer and how it might grow (the cancer grade). It usually takes several days to get the result of a biopsy.

Types of biopsy

  • A closed biopsy is when a needle is used to get a tissue sample without cutting open the skin. Usually your child will have a local anaesthetic to numb the skin when the needle goes in. 
  • An open biopsy is when the skin is opened during surgery to get a sample of tissue. Your child will have a general anaesthetic to put them to sleep for this type of biopsy.

Other types of biopsy include:

  • Bone marrow aspirate/trephine biopsy 
    Taking a sample of bone marrow - and possibly bone - to check for cancer or to see how your child’s treatment is working. It is done under general anaesthetic. 
  • Brain biopsy
    In some situations, doctors may need to remove a small piece of a brain tumour to find out exactly what it is. Your child will be given an anaesthetic for the procedure and it will be done in the operating theatre. This can be done in two ways: by stereotactic biopsy or by open surgery. The neurosurgeon will decide on the most appropriate type of biopsy. See our booklet Understanding brain and spinal cord tumours in children for more information.

On average, biopsy results can take 7 to 10 days but sometimes can take longer. Once a diagnosis has been made, all members of the oncology team work together to ensure that your child gets the most appropriate treatment in a timely way.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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