Tests and procedures: Biopsy


A biopsy is a small piece of tissue taken out of the body and tested for cancer cells.  

The biopsy can be done in two ways:

  • Open biopsy: the skin is opened during surgery and the surgeon removes a sample of tissue. 
  • Closed biopsy: a needle is inserted into the tissue without cutting open the skin. 

A biopsy will usually be performed while the child is under a general anesthetic in an operating theatre, although some closed biopsies may be performed using local anesthetic. The type of biopsy and anaesthetic used will depend on where the tumour is in the body, and the age of the child. 

Many tests are done on the biopsy sample to make sure the specific type of cancer is accurately diagnosed:

  • the specimen is examined under a microscope.  
  • additional tests are done including chemical studies and immune studies 
  • analysis of the genes within the cancer cell.  

In some cases, this additional information helps with predicting whether a child will respond well to a particular type of treatment or whether the treatment needs to be altered.  

Last updated Wednesday 26th June 2024