A prostate cancer biopsy is a type of minor urologic procedure used to detect cancer. For a prostate biopsy, tiny pieces of tissue are removed from the prostate and looked at under a microscope. The pathologist is the doctor who will look carefully at the tissue samples for any cancer cells. This is largely the only way to know for sure if you have prostate cancer.
The prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) are two tests used to screen for prostate cancer. The decision to have a biopsy is based on the results of these tests, but can be recommended even if you have no symptoms. Your doctor will also consider your family history of prostate cancer, ethnicity, biopsy history and other health factors.
A transperineal biopsy is when your doctor puts a needle into the prostate through the skin behind the testicles, an area known as the perineum. They will take a number of tissue samples, which are then sent to the lab for review.
An advantage of the transperineal biopsy is that it markedly reduces the potential of infection or bleeding, which can be a complication of the biopsy.
The biopsy is often done as an outpatient procedure. General anesthesia is used to provide more comfort.
Alexander Kutikov, MD, is chief of the Division of Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.