Biopsy to test for childhood cancer

Biopsy to test for childhood cancer

A biopsy is a test where a doctor takes a piece of tissue out of the body to check for cancer cells.

Key points to remember

  • a doctor may remove part of a tumour for testing if they think it is cancerous
  • sometimes the doctor may remove the whole tumour during the procedure
  • the type of biopsy your child will have will depend on their specific clinical circumstances

What is a biopsy?

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

A surgeon may remove part of a tumour for testing if they think it is cancerous (malignant).

There are 2 ways to do this:

  • a small needle through the skin (needle biopsy)
  • a small operation (open biopsy)

A radiologist may also do a CT (computerised axial tomography) guided biopsy. In some cases, the doctor may remove the whole tumour during the procedure. A specialist doctor (a histopathologist) will study the sample. The doctor can tell whether or not it is cancerous and exactly what kind of tumour it is.

The type of biopsy your child will have will depend on their specific clinical circumstances.

Will my child be awake or asleep?

Some biopsies happen in the operating room under general anaesthesia (completely asleep). Other biopsies happen using local anaesthesia (numbing the skin and tissues).

The type of anaesthesia the doctor uses will depend on where the tumour is in the body and your child's condition.

Getting results

It usually takes a few days to get the results. Sometimes your child will need specialised tests to look more closely at the tumour tissue. Chromosome analysis or special staining tests can help with the diagnosis. 

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 26 October 2017.
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