What is Biopsy Really Like?
Last updated: April 2023
Being screened for prostate cancer can be an overwhelming and confusing process, and not knowing what to expect from your upcoming biopsy can add to those feelings of uncertainty. Upon first hearing about the procedure, it sounds uncomfortable and potentially painful.
What is a prostate biopsy?
Traditional biopsy for prostate cancer is performed by inserting thin, hollow needles into the prostate gland to collect tissue samples called cores. The needles are inserted into the prostate through the wall of the rectum. This process is used usually to extract 10-12 core samples. Sometimes the needles are guided to specific areas of the prostate through the use of an ultrasound device, called TRUS, or may be guided with an MRI. These samples are then analyzed under a microscope to look for the presence of cancerous cells, how many there are, and how dispersed they are in each of the core samples.
Everyone has a different biopsy experience and shedding light on these different experiences may help men feel better prepared for this next step.
To learn more about mens' experiences with a traditional prostate cancer needle biopsy, we asked community members more about their biopsy and whether it hurt. There were three general types of biopsy experiences people talked about:
Not so bad?
You may find it hard to believe, but this was the sentiment shared by most men...
“I only felt two of my samples and it wasn’t that bad.”
“Not bad at all no pain.”
“I had two done. Second one found cancer. They were a little uncomfortable but not that bad. Over in a few minutes.”
“It went smooth. You just lied on your side. The doctor put an anesthetic in your booty. Then he puts about 8 very thin darts one by one inside your bottom. It’s doesn’t hurt. It takes about 5 minutes for the procedure. You are all done. You will bleed a little from your behind when you go to the bathroom. But it heals fast.”
How many times have you had needle biopsy?
“My husband was terrified to have the biopsy done but they numbed up his a-hole and he didn't feel much”
“It wasn't bad had it done early in the morning was doing yard work in the afternoon. Gives you a chance to save your own life”
“Biopsy was a piece of cake!”
“Doesn’t hurt, have had two done should have had a third one done”
Many community members talked about experiencing little to no pain during their biopsy. Although some experienced anxiety going into the procedure, they came away with little physical discomfort. The procedure is a relatively quick one and the recovery time is typically short (with many being able to return to normal activities within 1-2 days).
The pain and the recovery
For men who find the biopsy fairly painful, it is over sooner than many men anticipate (15 minutes). Some men may experience some residual pain over a couple days when going to the bathroom. In the scheme of things, a little discomfort outweighs not finding cancer and having worse health and medical outcomes.
“They gave me a Valium a half hour before proceeding and had me get in the fetal position on a table. Then shoved a baseball bat up there and fired an air rifle six times to get the samples while I prayed out loud to God. Almost needed stitches from clawing my arm while trying not to move. But they gave me a piece of candy for being a good boy. Seriously worth the pain though. Found cancer early and got it out. All good now. Nice story to tell at parties also so win-win!!”
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