ZocdocAnswersWhy do I need to do a biopsy for colitis?

Question

Why do I need to do a biopsy for colitis?

Brief medical history: stage 2 breast cancer earlier this year. Had bilateral mastectomy with chemo which ended in june. A few days ago my stomach felt a little off but nothing serious. Tuesday night I had diarrhea and vomiting but only one episode. I did pass some mucus with bright red blood. Went to dr who did an examination which was fine, then did colonscopy and the dr said I have severe colitis.. I did a stool test and no ova or parasites were found. He also took biopsies of the colitis. What do they look for in the biopsies? I am scared that they r looking for cancer even though the doctor said it is nothing cancer related. What else can cause colitis?

Answer

This is the kind of thing that you would want to discuss with a gastroenterologist and I recommend that you do so. Generally speaking, when someone develops colitis for unknown reasons, a biopsy can be really helpful in determining what are the causes of that colitis. In your case, if this colitis is not due to an infection and it is not due to any medication that you are currently taking, then it might be due to an inflammatory condition. The two most common inflammatory conditions the result in colitis are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. There are other types as well, but these are the most common. Both of these conditions result in inflammation of the inside of colon wall and the information is usually due to an abnormal activation of the immune system where it recognizes the bowel as foreign. Symptoms usually include abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and sometimes weight-loss. The symptoms can sometimes be controlled with oral anti-inflammatory medications such as sulfasalazine. Other times it must be controlled with steroids such as prednisone. In the long run, sometimes medication such as an anti-TNF inhibitor need to be added. You won't know if any of these medications are indicated for you unless the biopsy is done to look for the pattern of information. It might be that you don't need any of these. Again, please discuss this with a gastroenterologist. They have the ability to interpret the pathology reports and determine what condition it is that you have.

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