What is a Biopsy?

Many medical conditions, not only cases of cancer, may be diagnosed by removing a sample of tissue for lab examination. This procedure is called a biopsy, which is preformed by a variety of techniques. After the doctor obtains the skin biopsy specimen, it is sent for examination to a pathologist who prepares a written report with information designed to help manage the conditions properly.

Types of Biopsies

There are two main types of biopsies, a shave biopsy and a punch biopsy.


A “shave” slices a surface portion off with a blade. A “curette” scrapes off the surface. These are often done to remove a small growth and confirm its nature at the same time.


A “Punch” biopsy is typically used by dermatologists to sample skin rashes and small masses. After a local anesthetic is injected, a biopsy punch, which is basically a small (1 to 4 mm in diameter) version of a cookie cutter, is used to cut out a cylindrical piece of skin. The hole may be closed with a suture and heals with minimal scarring.