ZocdocAnswersWhat is a biopsy?

Question

What is a biopsy?

I've had a lot of stomach problems over the last few years. My doctor wants to take a biopsy of my intestine. What exactly is a biopsy and what will it tell my doctor about my stomach?

Answer

I am sorry to hear that you have been having gastrointestinal problems for a few years. This is a very good question. A biopsy is just a medical term for taking a representative piece of tissue. There are a number of reasons why biopsies are taken. For instance, there is no way to tell if something is actually a cancer, unless a piece of it is taken (via biopsy) and sent to the pathologist to be evaluated under the microscope. I am not trying to scare you by saying that you have a cancer, it is just one example of why a biopsy is taken. Another reason that a biopsy may be taken is because that are characteristic histologic (meaning by microscopic evaluation) findings with some infections. thus biopsies can potentially tell if there is an infection present, and may even lead to the diagnosis of what is the infectious agent. In addition to showing whether there may be a histologic abnormality, a biopsy may also confirm that the tissue has all of the characteristics of normal tissue for the area. Or it may show some dysplasia or even metaplasia. For example, it someone has very bad reflux, the normal lining of the esophagus due to the chronic irritation from stomach acid may actually start to change from one histologic cell type to another. These are just some of the things that your doctor will be looking for. If you have more specific questions, I would recommend calling the office or making an appointment with your physician to express your concerns, and ask questions. I hope that this was helpful. Best of luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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