A biopsy is a medical procedure in which a small sample of cells or tissue is removed for the initial evaluation or evaluation of extent of disease. An ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor may perform a biopsy on areas such as the lymph nodes, gums, lips, glands, thyroid, mouth and tongue, to test for malignancy.

The sample that is taken for biopsy can be collected in a number ways. One technique used to collect the sample is a fine needle aspiration where a hollow needle is inserted into the lesion or mass and the tissue to be tested remains in the needle when removed. The tissue is then taken from the needle and sent to the lab. The next technique is an incisional biopsy which is performed by removing a small portion of the lesion and sending it for testing. The third technique is an excisional biopsy. Here, the entire lesion is removed. The ENT will evaluate the need for biopsy and the appropriate technique based on the findings.

Biopsies are done in an outpatient setting. They can be performed in the office or in a surgery center under local anesthesia, light sedation or general anesthesia. After a biopsy, the patient may experience minor discomfort in the area of removal.

The doctor will call with the results of the biopsy a few days after the removal. The next steps for treatment will be discussed after the results are determined.