A biopsy is where a sample of abnormal tissue is removed to help diagnose the type and grade of tumour you have. The sample is taken during an operation and examined under a microscope in a laboratory.
For brain tumours, sometimes a biopsy will be taken as part of a craniotomy. A craniotomy is an operation to remove all, or as much is safe, of your tumour.
However, depending on the location of your tumour, a craniotomy might not always be possible, so a smaller operation is performed to get a sample of the tumour for diagnosis. This operation is a surgical biopsy and is often called a burr hole biopsy.
The tumour sample will be sent to the laboratory to be analysed and diagnosed by a neuropathologist.
A biopsy generally takes about 1-2 hours and can often be done as a day case.
The results of your biopsy will show the type and grade of your brain tumour. This will allow your healthcare team to decide the best treatment for you.
Occasionally the procedure is performed under a local anaesthetic, but you will be sedated. If this is thought to be your best option, your healthcare team will discuss it with you, explaining what is done to prevent you feeling any pain, and help you mentally prepare for it.
After your biopsy, you may be given steroids to help with any brain swelling.
After having a biopsy you may need to stay in hospital overnight or for a few days. However, sometimes a biopsy can be done as a day case and you will be allowed home that day.
If you have had a craniotomy, your recovery might take longer and you may need a longer stay in hospital.
If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)
Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00
You can also join our active online community on Facebook - find out more about our groups.