What Is a Polyp Biopsy?
A polyp is an abnormal
growth of tissue that forms within the body. Polyps can appear in any organ
that has blood vessels, but they’re most often found in the:
Most polyps are benign,
or noncancerous. However, since polyps are caused by abnormal cell growth, they
can eventually become cancerous. There
may be one polyp or multiple polyps present.
Polyps usually don’t cause symptoms, so they often go undetected
until a doctor discovers them during an unrelated medical test or routine
physical exam. If your doctor
discovers a polyp in your body, they’ll likely perform a biopsy. During a polyp
biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed and analyzed under a microscope.
Polyps can develop in people of all ages. However, they tend to
be more common in adults over age 50, especially those who smoke and are
overweight. People who abuse alcohol and who have a diet high in fat are also
at an increased risk for polyps.
Why Is a Polyp Biopsy Performed?
Your doctor may want to perform a polyp biopsy to determine whether the growth is cancerous
or noncancerous. During the procedure, a sample of tissue is removed for
The specific type of
procedure used to obtain a sample will depend
on where the polyp or polyps are located, as well as their size and number. The
different procedures include:
- colonoscopy for polyps located in the large bowel
- colposcopy for polyps located in the vagina or
- esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) for polyps located
in the gastrointestinal tract
- laryngoscopy for polyps located in the nose, throat,
or vocal cords
If the polyp is located in an area that’s easy to reach, a small
piece of tissue is simply removed and biopsied.
How Do I Prepare for a Polyp Biopsy?
The necessary preparations for a polyp biopsy will vary depending
on the type of procedure being performed. In general, no special preparation is
necessary when the polyp is located in the nose or another open, easily
accessible area of the body. However, you’ll need to prepare for a biopsy if
the polyp is located in an organ inside of your body, such as the colon or
uterus. Your doctor will give you specific instructions before the test, which
may include fasting or following a special liquid diet for one to three days
before the procedure. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions
It’s also vital to tell your doctor about any prescription drugs,
over-the-counter medications, and supplements you’re taking. You should notify
them about any allergies as well.
Since you’ll be sedated during the biopsy, it’s also a good idea
to arrange for a ride home afterward. The effects of the sedative can take a
while to wear off, making it unsafe for you to drive yourself.
What Are the Risks of a Polyp Biopsy?
The risks of a polyp biopsy rarely occur. However, there are a few
risks associated with the procedure. These include:
- an infection
- excessive bleeding
- damage to a nerve located near the polyp
- puncturing the organ where the polyp is located
- an adverse reaction to the type of anesthesia used
What Happens During a Polyp Biopsy?
A polyp biopsy is typically performed at a doctor’s office or a
hospital. Your doctor or another healthcare provider will perform the
procedure. They’ll give you an anesthetic so that you don’t feel any pain
during the biopsy. Depending on the type of procedure being performed, you’ll
be given either a general or a local anesthetic. A general anesthetic will put
you to sleep throughout the procedure, and a local anesthetic will numb the area
where you’re having the procedure. How the procedure is done depends on
the location of the polyp.
When the polyp is located in the colon, or large intestine, a
colonoscopy is performed. This involves the following steps:
- During a colonoscopy, you’ll lie on your side on
a padded examination table. Your doctor may ask you to keep your knees close to
your chest so they can get a better angle to reach your colon.
- They’ll then gently insert an instrument called
a colonoscope through your anus and into your colon. A colonoscope is long,
flexible tube with a small video camera attached at the end. This allows your
doctor to see the inside of the entire colon.
- Once the colonoscope is positioned, your doctor
will inflate your colon using carbon dioxide gas to get a better view of the
- They’ll then remove a tissue sample of the
A colposcopy is performed when the polyp is located in the
cervix, vagina, or vulva. This involves the following steps:
- During a colposcopy, you’ll be asked to lie on
your back on an examination table with your feet in stirrups.
- Your doctor will then position a device called a
colposcope a few inches away from your vulva.
- A colposcope is a large, electric microscope
with a bright light that allows your doctor to see your cervix clearly. The
colposcope doesn’t touch you.
- Your doctor will then place a tool called a speculum
into your vagina. The speculum holds the walls of your vagina open so that your
doctor can see your cervix more easily.
- They’ll swab your cervix and vagina with a cotton
ball containing a solution of vinegar. This will clear away mucus and make the
polyp more visible.
- Your doctor will use a sharp biopsy instrument to remove a sample of tissue from the
An esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is performed when the polyp
is located in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract consists of the esophagus,
stomach, and duodenum. The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the throat
to the stomach and duodenum, which is the upper part of the small intestine.
During an EGD, you’ll be asked to lie on your side on an
examination table. Your doctor will then slowly insert an instrument called an
endoscope into your esophagus and through your stomach and duodenum. An
endoscope is a long, flexible tube with a camera, which allows your doctor to examine
your organs easily. Once your doctor locates the polyp, they’ll take a small
sample of tissue using forceps attached to the endoscope.
A direct laryngoscopy is performed when the polyp is located in
the nose, throat, or larynx. The larynx is your voice box, which contains your
vocal chords. It’s located at the top of the your windpipe, or trachea.
During a direct laryngoscopy, you’ll lie on your back on an
examination table. Your doctor will insert a special tube called a laryngoscope
into your mouth and down your throat. This allows your doctor to get a close view
of the larynx and throat. They will then use the laryngoscope to collect the
tissue sample from the polyp.
After any biopsy procedure, the tissue sample will be examined
with a microscope to identify any abnormalities in your cells.
What Happens After a Polyp Biopsy?
It’s normal to feel some discomfort after a biopsy, but you
should recover within one to two days. Call your doctor immediately if you’re having
dizziness and bleeding or pain in the area where the tissue sample was removed.
These symptoms may indicate that something is wrong.
Understanding the Results of a Polyp Biopsy
After your biopsy, your doctor will usually call you to schedule
a follow-up appointment so they can discuss the results with you. In some cases,
they’ll give you the results on the phone.
Normal results mean that no abnormal cells were found and that
the polyp is benign. Abnormal results mean that the polyp is cancerous. If this
is the case, your doctor will determine the best course of treatment and
explain the next steps.