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What happens during fine needle biopsy?

A local anaesthetic is injected first to numb the area. If the lump is near the surface of your body and can easily be felt, the doctor will probably just feel it to guide the needle in. If the lump is deep within the body (such as in the abdomen) or is harder to feel, the doctor will use an ultrasound scan or sometimes a CT scan to see where the needle is going and guide it into the right place. A fine needle is put into the lump to take a sample of cells. Several samples may be taken.

When the cells are looked at under a microscope, the pathologist will be able to tell whether they are benign (not cancerous) or cancerous cells.

If the lump is a sarcoma (a rare form of cancer), further tests may be done on the sample to try to find out exactly what type of sarcoma it is. Sometimes, particularly with children, the biopsy is done under a general anaesthetic.

For most people a needle biopsy will show whether the lump is a sarcoma. Sometimes, not enough cells are collected to give a clear answer, and then a surgical biopsy is needed.


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