Biopsy - polyps
A polyp biopsy is a diagnostic procedure that takes a sample of or removes polyps (abnormal growths) for examination.
How the test is performed
Polyps are outgrowths of tissue that may be attached by a stalk-like structure (a pedicle). They are commonly found in organs with many blood vessels, such as the uterus, colon, and nose. Some polyps are cancerous (malignant) and likely to spread, while others are noncancerous (benign).
How a polyp biopsy is taken depends on the location:
- EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) or other endoscopy is used for the throat, stomach, and small bowel.
- Colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy explores the large bowel.
- Colposcopy-directed biopsy examines the vagina and cervix.
For areas of the body that are visible, a topical anesthetic is applied, and a small piece of the tissue that appears to be abnormal is removed. This tissue is sent to the laboratory, where technicians determine if the polyp is benign or malignant.
How to prepare for the test
If the biopsy is to take place in the nose, or other visible surface or orifice, no special preparation is required, although fasting for a few hours beforehand may be advisable.
There is more preparation needed for internal procedures. Please see the particular procedure for additional information.
How the test will feel
For superficial polyps, you may feel a tugging sensation while the biopsy is being taken. After the anesthetic wears off, the area may be sore for a few days. Biopsies of internal polyps are performed during procedures (for example EGD or colonoscopy), and usually nothing is felt during or after the biopsy. Please see the individual procedure topics for more specific information.
Why the test is performed
The test is performed to determine if the growth is malignant (cancer).
Examination of the biopsy shows the polyp to be benign (not cancer).
What abnormal results mean
Malignant cells are present and may indicate a malignant tumor. Further tests may be needed.
What the risks are
- Organ perforation (hole)
Reviewed By: Todd Eisner, MD, Private practice specializing in Gastroenterology, Boca Raton, FL, Clinical Instructor, Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.