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NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms


punch biopsy  listen  (... BY-op-see)

  A procedure in which a small round piece of tissue about the size of a pencil eraser is removed using a sharp, hollow, circular instrument. The tissue is then checked under a microscope for signs of disease. A punch biopsy may be used to check for certain types of cancer, including skin, vulvar, and cervical cancer. It may also be used to check for certain skin conditions and changes that may lead to cancer.

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Punch biopsy; drawing shows a hollow, circular scalpel being inserted into a lesion on the skin of a patient’s forearm. The instrument is turned clockwise and counterclockwise to cut into the skin and a small sample of tissue is removed to be checked under a microscope. The pullout shows that the instrument cuts down about 4 millimeters (mm) to the layer of fatty tissue below the dermis.