This involves taking a small piece (sample) from the cancer. The sample is then examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells. This is often the only sure way to tell if you have cancer. Your doctor may recommend an incision biopsy or a needle biopsy.
- Incision biopsy: Your doctor will take a small piece of tissue using a surgical knife. This can be done in the clinic using topical anaesthetic (a spray in the nose) or in hospital under general anaesthetic (medicine to keep you unconscious), so that you don’t feel any pain. In both cases, an endoscope and biopsy forcep is used to go through the nose into the nasopharynx. There may be some bleeding after the biopsy. If you take blood thinners (e.g. warfarin), you may need to stop these for a few days before the biopsy.
- Needle biopsy (Fine Needle Aspiration or FNA): This is used when there is a lump (enlarged lymph node) in your neck that could have cancer cells in it. During the procedure, your doctor will take some cells from the lump using a needle. Usually this is done with guidance from an ultrasound to make sure the needle is in the right spot. You may feel a bit uncomfortable during the biopsy.