Prostate Biopsy

A prostate biopsy is a medical procedure conducted to collect small tissue samples from the prostate gland for microscopic examination to detect cancer cells. Prostate biopsies are crucial for diagnosing prostate cancer and assessing its aggressiveness, which is essential for choosing appropriate treatment options.

Transperineal prostate biopsy. Source.

When is a prostate biopsy performed?

Prostate biopsy is typically recommended if there are indicators of potential prostate issues, such as a high PSA level in the blood, abnormal findings in a digital rectal exam (DRE), previous biopsies showing abnormal cells, or suspicious areas identified in an MRI scan. There are three types of prostate biopsy: transperineal, transrectal, and transurethral. In each method, the doctor collects multiple samples from various prostate areas and any MRI-identified suspicious regions. These samples are then analyzed by a pathologist to check for the presence of cancer cells.

Transperineal prostate biopsy

A transperineal prostate biopsy involves the insertion of a needle through the skin between the anus and scrotum, known as the perineum, to collect prostate tissue samples. This method is often guided by ultrasound imaging to ensure accurate placement of the needle. It is typically performed under local or general anesthesia. The transperineal approach minimizes the risk of infection compared to other biopsy methods and allows access to different parts of the prostate, making it a comprehensive option for detecting prostate cancer.

Transrectal prostate biopsy

In a transrectal prostate biopsy, a needle is inserted through the rectal wall to reach the prostate gland. This procedure is commonly guided by transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) to help visualize the prostate and accurately target the areas for sampling. Local anesthesia is used to minimize discomfort. While this method is widely used due to its convenience and effectiveness, there is a slightly higher risk of infection and bleeding compared to the transperineal approach.

Transurethral prostate biopsy

A transurethral prostate biopsy involves accessing the prostate gland through the urethra. During this procedure, a cystoscope – a thin tube with a camera and light – is inserted into the urethra to guide the biopsy needle to the prostate. Tissue samples are then collected for examination. This method is less common and may be used when other biopsy approaches are not feasible or when additional examination of the bladder or urethra is required. It typically requires general anesthesia and is performed in a hospital setting.

What are the risks and side effects of a prostate biopsy?

A prostate biopsy is generally safe, but there can be side effects. Bleeding is common, and you might notice blood in your urine, stool, or semen for several days or weeks post-biopsy. While this is usually not a cause for concern, heavy bleeding, or signs of infection like fever, chills, or pain should prompt you to contact your doctor. Infection risks are small but more pronounced in the transrectal method; hence, antibiotics are often prescribed before and after the procedure. Some men may experience difficulty urinating, pain, or a burning sensation during urination, which typically resolves by drinking plenty of fluids and taking painkillers. In rare cases, a catheter may be necessary to help with urination.

How can I prepare for a prostate biopsy?

To prepare for a prostate biopsy, follow your doctor's instructions closely. This may include stopping certain medications, like blood thinners, to reduce bleeding risk. You will likely need to take antibiotics before the procedure to prevent infection. Fasting for a few hours before the biopsy is often required if sedation or anesthesia will be used. Discuss any allergies or health conditions with your doctor. It is also advisable to arrange for someone to drive you home afterward, as you may be given sedatives.

What should I do after a prostate biopsy?

Post-prostate biopsy, rest for the remainder of the day. Monitor for signs of infection, such as fever, chills, or severe pain, and contact your doctor if these occur. Expect some blood in your urine, stool, or semen for a few days. Drink plenty of fluids to help flush out the blood. Avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for 24 to 48 hours to reduce bleeding risks. Follow your doctor's recommendations regarding resuming medications and any additional post-procedure care.

How long does it take to recover from a prostate biopsy?

Recovery from a prostate biopsy is typically quick. Most men can resume normal activities within a day, though it is advisable to avoid strenuous activities for a short period. Side effects like blood in urine or semen can last for a few days to a few weeks but usually diminish gradually. If you experience severe pain, heavy bleeding, or signs of infection, consult your doctor. Complete healing and return to all regular activities can be expected within a week, provided there are no complications.

What happens to the samples collected during prostate biopsy?

The tissue samples collected during a prostate biopsy are sent to a pathology lab for detailed examination. A pathologist, who specializes in diagnosing diseases by studying cells and tissues, closely examines these samples under a microscope. They look for cancer cells and, if found, grade the tumor based on how the cells look compared to healthy prostate cells. This grading helps in assessing how aggressive the cancer is and guides the appropriate treatment planning.

How will the prostate biopsy help diagnosis?

A prostate biopsy is a crucial step in diagnosing prostate cancer. By examining the tissue samples, a pathologist can confirm the presence or absence of cancer cells in the prostate. If cancer is present, the biopsy provides detailed information about the type and grade of the cancer, which are essential for determining its aggressiveness and potential to spread. This information is vital in deciding the best course of treatment, whether it be active surveillance, surgery, radiation, or other therapies. The biopsy results thus play a key role in developing an effective and personalized treatment plan.

How will be the results of my prostate biopsy reported?

The results of your prostate biopsy will be reported in a pathology report. This report will include whether or not cancer cells were found in the tissue samples. If cancer is present, the report will detail the grade of the tumor, often using the Gleason score, which assesses how much the cancer cells resemble normal prostate cells. The higher the Gleason score, the more aggressive the cancer. Additionally, the report may include the number of samples taken, the number of samples that contain cancer, and the percentage of cancerous tissue in each sample. This detailed information aids your doctor in understanding the extent and aggressiveness of the cancer, crucial for determining the best course of treatment.


In conclusion, a prostate biopsy is a critical diagnostic tool for detecting prostate cancer. Although the procedure may involve certain side effects, understanding the process, preparing adequately, and following post-procedure care instructions can ensure a smooth experience. The biopsy results, conveyed through a detailed pathology report, provide essential information about the presence, grade, and aggressiveness of cancer, if detected. This information is pivotal in guiding treatment decisions and tailoring care to each individual's case. Understanding what to expect during and after a prostate biopsy, and how the results inform your diagnosis, is key to navigating this important step in prostate health management.

Further Reading

  1. Hübner N, Shariat S, Remzi M. Prostate biopsy: guidelines and evidence. Curr Opin Urol. 2018 Jul. PMID: 29847523.
  2. Streicher J, Meyerson BL, Karivedu V, Sidana A. A review of optimal prostate biopsy: indications and techniques. Ther Adv Urol. 2019. PMID: 31489033.

Disclaimer: This blog post is intended solely for informational purposes, based on the references cited. It is not meant to serve as medical advice. For professional medical guidance, please consult your doctor.


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