At a glance

A biopsy is a procedure done to remove a piece of tissue or a sample of cells so that this tissue may be tested and screened for abnormalities. In cases where a patient is experiencing certain symptoms and an area of concern has arisen, your doctor may suggest a biopsy of the skin lesion to make a more accurate diagnosis and plan treatment. They may then refer you to a specialised surgeon such as Dr Maraj to perform the biopsy surgically.

Types of biopsies

There are different types of biopsies, each used for various aspects of the body. Some biopsies like a shave, punch, incisional or excisional biopsy are used to diagnose skin conditions, including melanoma and other cancers. What type of skin biopsy you undergo will depend on the type of cancer suspected and the extent of the suspicious cells. In such cases, you may receive local anaesthetics to numb the area so that the sample can be taken.

In other cases, the biopsy may be surgical, during which your surgeon will make an incision in your skin, using local- or under general anaesthesia, to access the suspicious area of cells. This may be advised for lumps or masses within the body like the breast or a lymph node. Surgical biopsy procedures can be used to remove part of an abnormal area of cells (incisional biopsy) or to remove the entire mass of abnormal cells (excisional biopsy). For surgical biopsies, you may need to stay in the hospital for observation for a few days after the surgery.

After your biopsy, the tissue or cell sample will be sent to the laboratory to be studied under a microscope and tested. You can expect the biopsy results within a week or two.

Laparoscopic biopsies to harvest abdominal lymph nodes may be done if indicated.

As this is merely a guide providing a basic understanding of the surgery, Dr Maraj will be able to answer any further questions should you have any.

Risks & complications

Guidelines and protocols will be followed to prevent complications; however, as there are risks to any surgery, it is good to know what complications may be expected. While rare, bleeding, infection or damage to nearby tissues, nerves or vessels may occur. While Dr Maraj aims to avoid this, you will be monitored for any signs of complications and treated accordingly.


This website was designed to offer information relating to surgical conditions. Dr Amisha Maraj will not be liable for any patient who misinterepts the content, or any inaccuracy, misconceptions, oversights or omissions on this website. In the event of an emergency please go to your nearest casualty or Life Brenthurst casualty. If you are concerned that you have symptoms or a medical illness please seek urgent appropriate healthcare.