A man with white hair holds his chin while trying to decide on the pain scale using emotions.

Is a Prostate Biopsy Painful?

One procedure that helps diagnose prostate cancer is a biopsy. In a prostate biopsy, a doctor takes tissue from the prostate gland to study under a microscope. They remove the tissue either by a needle inserted into the prostate or through a surgical procedure. They may collect around 12 tissue samples.1,2

How is a biopsy done?

Most biopsy procedures begin with a local anesthetic to numb the area and reduce pain. There are several options for removing the tissue samples:1,2

  • Transrectal – This is the most common type of biopsy. A needle passes through the rectum to remove tissue from the prostate gland. An ultrasound helps to guide the placement of the needle.
  • Perineal – Here, the doctor makes a small cut in the skin between the scrotum and rectum. They then insert a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to locate and steady the prostate. Then, they use a needle to remove tissue samples through the cut.
  • Transurethral – This surgical procedure may be done with local or general anesthetic. The doctor inserts a tube (cystoscope) into the penis and up through the urethra into the prostate. Then, they thread an extraction tool through the tube to retrieve the tissue samples.

Does it hurt?

Each person’s pain threshold is different. Some people experience mild pain and discomfort. Others find the procedures to be more painful. Research suggests that those with lower prostate-specific antigen (PSA) scores experience more pain during a biopsy.1-3

Recently, a member of the ProstateCancer.net community asked, “How much will a biopsy hurt?” Members who had gone through the procedure shared their insights.

Minor pain

The most common response was that the biopsy came with minimal pain.

“I was awake for my first biopsy. I heard the click, felt the pinch, and had blood in my urine. I would say a minimum of discomfort.”

“Pain wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; the first click of taking the first core made me jump because no one told me to expect that.”

“I had my biopsy in November 2017. As far as the biopsy went, some pain but no big deal.”

“I had my first biopsy about 6 weeks ago through the rectum. It was done in the doctor’s office. My PSA was at 13.5 at this time. They took 12 samples. I felt like 4 out of the 12 were painful, but it wasn't that bad.”

“I had it done a few years ago. No drugs, no anesthesia, nothing. I remember hearing the snips, and it kinda hurt on the inside, that’s it.”

“Had a biopsy done earlier this week, my third in the last five or six years. I personally do not find them that bad.”

No pain at all

A few respondents reported feeling no pain during their prostate biopsy.

“No pain for me at all. Embarrassment, yes. Pain, nope.”

“Mine took about 29 minutes, and after a local anesthetic, it was completely painless. Yes, a little uncomfortable, but nothing really. All I heard was the clicks as samples were taken.”

Featured Forum

View all responses caret icon

Done under sedation

Several people shared what it was like to undergo sedation for the biopsy.

“When I was diagnosed back ten years ago in 2007, my biopsy did not hurt at all; in fact, I was put under for it. If they put you under, you should NOT feel anything at all, just maybe sore afterwards.”

“I was sedated, no pain whatsoever, and nothing noticeable after.”

“I was sedated when I had my biopsy. I had some friends who said it was terrible. The thing that everyone should know is you can be sedated. You might have to wait a week to get an appointment at a surgery center. But no pain at all.”

Uncomfortable procedure

Several respondents described experiencing higher levels of discomfort from the biopsy.

“Of all the treatments I have been through, the biopsy was probably the most painful and uncomfortable. The feeling was like a very sharp stabbing-like pain in my groin.”

“The biopsy is uncomfortable for sure. It feels like you’re being hit with a staple gun in your prostate.”

Not the best, but not the worst

Overall, many felt it was not pleasant, but also not the worst procedure to go through.

“I feel fortunate as I've had a lot worse procedures. I remember hearing ‘the click’ of the instrument that took each ‘plug’ out of my prostate and a minor discomfort each of the 12 times.”

“I had heard several horror stories about the biopsy, so I went into it with the worst dread. . . . The initial numbing shot was the worst, but not much worse than getting a numbing shot at the dentist. I asked her to numb me up good! After that, I just heard clicks for each of the 12 samples. Overall, it wasn't as bad as I anticipated.”

“It was far from the most pleasant experience I've ever had, but it was far from the worst either. Not comfortable, but not super painful either.”

Thank you

We appreciate everyone who joined the conversation! Your responses can help others going through prostate cancer.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ProstateCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.