Many cancers are now diagnosed by needle biopsy. During this procedure, we use imaging techniques (such as CT, X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI) to guide the insertion of a fine needle into the patient’s tumour. A small amount of tissue is removed and then examined by a pathologist to determine if cancer cells are present. Needle biopsies are less painful, less disfiguring, and result in a shorter recovery time than conventional surgical biopsy procedures. Needle biopsy, also called image-guided biopsy, is usually performed using a moving X-ray technique (fluoroscopy) computed tomography (CT), ultrasound or magnetic resonance (MR) to guide the procedure. In many cases, needle biopsies are performed with the aid of equipment that creates a computer-generated image and allows radiologists to see an area inside the body from various angles. This “stereotactic” equipment helps them pinpoint the exact location of the abnormal tissue. Needle biopsy is typically an outpatient procedure with very infrequent complications; less than 1 percent of patients develop bleeding or infection. In about 90 percent of patients, needle biopsy provides enough tissue for the pathologist to determine the cause of the abnormality.
Advantages of needle biopsy include:
• With image guidance, the abnormality can be biopsied while important nearby structures such as blood vessels and vital organs can be seen and avoided.
• The patient is spared the pain, scarring and complications associated with open surgery.
• Recovery times are usually shorter and patients can more quickly resume normal activities.