Prostate Cancer

Biopsy for prostate cancer

In this summary men we interviewed describe their experiences of biopsies. If the initial tests (rectal examination, PSA or ultrasound) show the possibility of cancer, men are usually asked to have a biopsy, in which a sample of cells is taken from the prostate to be looked at under the microscope. The biopsy is usually done through the back passage (rectum), but occasionally it can be taken through the skin behind your testicles (the perineum) or while you are having a cystoscopy examination (via the urethra).

Men we interviewed who had biopsies had very different experiences. Most reported that the biopsy was uncomfortable, but not painful. One man said that it was no more uncomfortable than having a blood sample taken, and others thought the description of a biopsy as 'being flicked with an elastic band', was a good description. One man found the procedure more embarrassing than painful and another man said that his privacy and dignity were not always respected.

However, a number of the men we interviewed found the biopsy painful and quite distressing. One man likened the biopsy to 'an air gun in reverse', and another said that the procedure 'brought tears to your eyes'. A man who had a biopsy done in a private hospital in 1994 described the biopsy as 'ghastly'. In 1997 he had another biopsy, this time within the National Health Service, but he found the experience equally painful, and refused to allow more than four cell samples to be taken. The use of Periprostatic nerve block (PNB) with local anaesthesia before a prostate biopsy is now considered standard care, patients should not undergo the procedure without it. 

Others found the procedure painful, but said that the pain was relatively short lived.

Occasionally biopsies are done through the perineum.

For more experiences of biopsy for prostate cancer see the Healthtalk - PSA testing website.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated July 2017.



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