What's a biopsy, and when do I need one?

Farjaad M. Siddiq, M.D., Urologist
Farjaad M. Siddiq, M.D., Urologist

If the results of your screening tests are suspicious, your doctor may order a biopsy to determine if there is cancer in your prostate. During a biopsy, your doctor will remove a piece of tissue from your prostate and examine it under a microscope for unusual cell growth. This is the only sure way to determine if your prostate is cancerous.

For example, a biopsy may be recommended if a man has increased PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels in the blood or a suspicious lump felt during a digital rectal exam.

Before performing a biopsy, your doctor might choose to do further testing, such as ultrasound imaging or more PSA testing, to help determine if cancer or another prostate condition is the problem.

Before having a biopsy, you may want to talk with your doctor about your test results and other factors, such as your prostate cancer risk and your overall health status, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Remember, needing a biopsy does not mean that you have cancer. In fact, most men who have a prostate biopsy after a routine exam don't have cancer, the NCI reports.