Removing a sample of body tissue is a biopsy. There are various types depending on how much tissue is taken e.g. fine needle biopsy or aspirate (FNA), core biopsy, vacuum assisted breast biopsy and surgical (open) biopsy.
A thicker hollow needle device is quickly fired through a solid structure and a slither of tissue is obtained. Often a few passes are made and the fragments are sent for histological analysis. Usually ultrasound is used to accurately target the lesion and local anaesthetic is always used to numb the skin and tissues.
A pathologist analyses cells smeared on a slide under the microscope (usually obtained from a fine needle biopsy) and determines whether there are any unusual or cancerous cells.
Fine needle biopsy or aspirate
A very thin hollow needle is used to core out or suck out some cells. The sample is sent for cytological analysis. Often ultrasound is used to accurately target the lesion. Local anaesthetic is usually more uncomfortable than the needle itself and hence is not routinely used.
A pathologist examines a tissue specimen. This is cut into extremely thin tissue slices, then placed onto a slide and analysed under the microscope. Tissue is obtained from a core or surgical biopsy and depending on the size and complexity of the specimen may take a few days to process. The pathologist determines the nature of the tissue and whether there are any unusual cells or malignancy present.
Hook wire localisation
This refers to the insertion of a fine wire into a lesion that can’t be felt (typically in the breast) prior to it’s surgical removal. The fine wire with a hook on the end is engaged into the lesion under imaging guidance (eg ultrasound) using local anaesthetic. Shortly afterwards the hookwire marking the lesion is removed surgically under general anaesthetic.
Swelling of a limb or the breast due to poor lymphatic drainage. It can occur after lymph node surgery. The risk of lymphoedema can be reduced and treatment is available to deal with this condition.
Most people have four tiny parathyroid glands which typically lie behind each lobe of the thyroid gland in upper and lower positions. These endocrine glands produce parathyroid hormone, a substance which regulates calcium levels.
This laboratory service analyses blood, body fluid and tissue samples. Blood analysis includes haematology and biochemistry. Tissue analysis includes cytology, histopathology and microbiology.
A protein labelled with a low dose of radioactive tracer. Typically it is used to identify sentinel lymph nodes draining an area affected with cancer.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy
Surgical removal of a select few lymph nodes filtering lymphatic fluid from a particular area of the body. In the context of breast cancer, the sentinel lymph node(s) is the node(s) draining the cancer and the best node to check to see if cancer has spread to the nodes or not.
Surgical (open) biopsy
Under anaesthesia, a skin incision is made to take out part (incisional biopsy) or all (excisional biopsy) of the lesion in question. The specimen is sent for histological analysis.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped endocrine organ located in the front of the lower neck attached to the trachea, the airway. It produces thyroid hormones including thyroxine which controls metabolism.
Wide excision cancer
Surgical removal of a cancer (typically in the breast) aiming to achieve clear margins (healthy normal tissue around the cancer).