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 one of the three types of biopsies:
Excision biopsy: This is when the doctor removes the cancer completely. This will usually be done for small cancers in the clinic or the operating room.
Incision biopsy: This is when the doctor removes a small piece of tissue using a surgical knife. This can be done in the clinic using local or general anaesthesia, so that you don't feel any pain. Depending on the size and location of the biopsy, you may need stitches. 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 the 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.