A biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure during which a doctor takes a small sample of suspicious cells. A pathologist examines the tissue sample under a microscope and determines whether the cells are normal or cancerous.
We use the least invasive biopsy procedure possible, minimizing discomfort while still obtaining enough cells to make a diagnosis.
Most of the time, this biopsy can be done in the doctor’s office. You won’t need anesthesia, but we may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever before your visit.
You will lay with your feet resting in stirrups, while your doctor places a speculum into your vagina. Your doctor may spray a numbing medicine on your cervix, before using a thin flexible tool to gently remove a sample of suspicious tissue from the lining of your uterus.
Pathology: Analyzing biopsies
After you have a biopsy, your nurse sends your tissue samples to our pathologists for review. A pathologist is a medical doctor who specializes in reviewing and evaluating lab tests, cells, and tissues to diagnose disease. Our pathologists analyze biopsy samples to determine whether the tissue is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer it is.
At the Stanford, our pathologists specialize in gynecologic cancer. That focus means they have extensive expertise interpreting uterine biopsies and other tests to confirm or rule out an endometrial cancer diagnosis.
Because endometrial cancer represents a complex group of different diseases, it’s important to have expert pathologists on your care team. Years of experience studying endometrial cancer every day means your pathologist can accurately identify critical details. This information includes whether the cancer:
- Is invasive or noninvasive
- Shows a high or low cell grade (rating that describes how different the cancer cells are from normal cells)
- Is aggressive or slow growing
- Contains specific molecules that indicate the cancer subtype
All these details help form an accurate diagnosis, which is vital to your treatment plan. Your care team takes the time to do a thorough evaluation from the start, so that your treatment will be more effective.
Gynecologic tumor tissue bank
Our doctors and researchers work to thoroughly understand the true diversity of endometrial cancer and identify the genetic abnormalities that can play a role in its formation. That’s why it’s critical that our doctors have access to tissue samples to plan for each patient’s care.
At Stanford, we store endometrial tissue samples, so we can use them for research, using the following process:
- After we take a biopsy (tiny sample of uterine tissue), we ask you if you would like to give it to the tissue bank.
- The tissue first goes to the laboratory, where the pathologist samples it.
- If you approve, the tissue then goes to endometrial cancer research specialists. These doctors work with our clinicians (doctors involved in patient care) to identify new pathways of tumor formation and possible treatments.
- The data is made anonymous and is not available to you after donation, because we use it for research and not for clinical use in making treatment decisions.
Our endometrial tumor bank provides our doctors and other researchers with a variety of different types of cancer cells to study. As we work on new methods and tools for diagnosing and treating cancer, our goal is to move these findings from the lab into patient care.
Published April 2018
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