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An excisional biopsy may be done if a needle biopsy can not be used, or if a needle biopsy does not give a definite result.

What happens during an excisional biopsy?

During excisional biopsy a surgical knife (scalpel) is used to open the area in question and remove a tissue sample. If the area under examination is small enough, the whole of it may be removed.

An excisional biopsy may be done under a local or general anaesthetic, depending on the position of the area and
how deep it is within your body. If the areas turns out to be benign, you may not need to have any more treatment. If it is cancerous, your consultant will discuss the treatment options with you.

As is the case with a needle biopsy, the sample is sent to the laboratory so that it can be tested. Often a large number of studies will be done even on a very small sample. It can take up to 10 days to get all the results. This can be a worrying time for you, but it is very important that an accurate diagnosis is made so that the most appropriate treatment can be given.

It may help you to talk about your worries with a partner, close friend, relative or counsellor.

If you are having a biopsy for skin cancer, your consultant will remove the area in question as well as a small border of tissue around the area for examination in the lab. Sometimes an additional excision is needed following receipt of your lab results. This is to ensure all cancerous tissue is removed.

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