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Biopsy - polyps

Alternative names

Polyp biopsy


A diagnostic procedure in which a portion of a polyp, (an abnormal growth of tissue, which may be malignant --cancerous, or benign -- not cancerous), is removed for examination.

How the test is performed

A polyp is an outgrowth of normal or abnormal tissue that may be attached by a pedicle . They are commonly found in organs with many blood vessels, such as the uterus, rectum, and nose. Some polyps are cancerous and likely to spread (malignant) while others are normal (benign).

How a polyp biopsy is taken depends on the location:

  • EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) or other endoscopy (for the throat, stomach and small bowel)
  • colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy (for the large bowel)
  • colposcopy-directed biopsy (for 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. The suspect 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 a hours may be advisable.

There is more involved preparation for some of the internal procedures, please see those topics 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 both during and 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 causing).

Normal Values

The biopsy examination shows the polyp to be benign (not malignant).

What abnormal results mean

Malignant cells are present and may indicate a malignant tumor . Further tests may be needed.

What the risks are

Risks include:
  • bowel perforation
  • infection
  • bleeding

Update Date: 5/1/2002

Jenifer K. Lehrer, M.D., Department of Gastroenterology, Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT