Questions to Ask Before Getting a Biopsy

Doctor Giving Instructions

Our Patient Advocates help patients navigate through the diagnostic process all the time. And one of the most important steps in confirming a mesothelioma diagnosis is getting a biopsy. In a biopsy, fluid or tissue samples are taken from a suspected cancerous area.

If you have never had a biopsy or are unfamiliar with the procedure, here are some questions to ask your doctor:

What’s the best biopsy procedure for mesothelioma?

There are several different mesothelioma biopsy options. The most common one used to diagnose mesothelioma is a thoracoscopy, which has about a 98-percent accuracy rate. Other options include fine needle aspiration, thoracentesis and thoracotomy. Discuss these with your doctor to determine which one is best for you. Also, ask how many times the doctor has performed the procedure so you know you’re in good hands.

How can I prepare for a biopsy?

It’s important to ask the doctor if there is anything you can do before arriving at the hospital. The doctor will likely ask you to leave valuables at home, remove jewelry and wear comfortable clothing. It’s probable that you will get specific instructions about eating and drinking the night before and/or day of the procedure.

How long will the procedure take? Will I be awake and is it painful?

Having the right expectations about the procedure can help calm your nerves. You may experience some pain in the area where the biopsy is performed, but double check with your doctor before making any assumptions.

Will I have to stay in the hospital?

Hostpial Stay from Mesothelioma Biopsy

Understanding how much time it will take to perform a biopsy will help with travel arrangements so make sure to ask your doctor how long the procedure will take. Although the time it takes to perform a biopsy varies on the type of biopsy and its location, patients are usually in and out of the hospital on the same day. Patients may be given a sedative or medicine for pain and will likely need a ride home. Some hospital care teams assist in transportation to and from the hospital so find out if this is an option for you. If you have to travel a long distance, check with one our Patient Advocates to see if travel grants are available.

Are there any risks with a biopsy?

Biopsies do carry risks. For example, new cancer cells may grow along the incision where the biopsy occurred. This is called “seeding.” Understanding this and other risks can help build trust in your health-care team, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.

What’s the recovery time for biopsies?

The type and location of the biopsy will determine your recovery time. Some patients heal faster than others, but your doctor should be able to give you an estimated recovery time. Sometimes knowing what to expect can make a big difference.

When will I get the results?

Waiting for medical results can be nerve-racking so make sure to ask your doctor when you should expect results. You may also want to ask about who will be explaining the results to you.

If I do have mesothelioma cancer, what are the next steps?

The steps after a diagnosis vary from each person’s case. Our Patient Advocates put together a mesothelioma diagnosis outline for patients and families.

If you would like to talk to a Patient Advocate about the steps after a mesothelioma diagnosis or have questions about mesothelioma please feel free to reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.


Ben Leer is an outreach coordinator with The Mesothelioma Center. He works toward increasing education and awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Part of Ben’s job is to reach out and engage with patients, caregivers and family members on our online communities.

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