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Biopsy of the womb lining

Read about the different types of biopsy you might have to check for womb cancer.

The only way to definitely diagnose womb cancer is to take a sample of the tissue lining the womb (an endometrial biopsy). Your doctor sends the sample to the lab where a pathologist checks it for abnormal or cancerous cells.

There are different ways to take a biopsy of the womb lining.

Aspiration biopsy

To have this test you lie on your back on a couch with your knees up and feet apart. You'll need to remove your underwear, but you will have a sheet to cover yourself with. Your doctor or nurse gently opens your vagina with a speculum. This is just the same as when you have a cervical screening test (smear test).

Your doctor puts a long thin tube into the womb through your vagina. With gentle suction, they draw some of the cells lining the womb into the tube. They then remove the tube and the speculum. You can get up from the couch and get dressed.

Most women have this procedure while they are awake. It should only take a few minutes. You can normally go home straight afterwards.

Your doctor sends the sample of cells to the lab. A pathologist checks them carefully under a microscope.

You may have period type pains (cramping) during or after this test. But mild painkillers such as paracetamol, should help to control any pain. You may have some vaginal bleeding for a couple of days afterwards.

Hysteroscopy

This test uses a very thin telescope called a hysteroscope. Your doctor uses it to look into your womb and take a biopsy. You have this test as an outpatient, and it only takes about 10 minutes.

Your doctor gently puts a speculum into your vagina to keep it open. They put antiseptic around the area to clean it. Then your doctor passes the hysteroscope through your cervix into the womb.

They put some fluid or gas through the hysteroscope to inflate your womb a little. This makes it easier for them to see inside. Your doctor examines your womb and takes a sample of the lining. They send this to the lab to check for cancer cells.

During and after this test you might have some cramping pains, but mild painkillers should help. You may also have some vaginal bleeding which can last up to 7 to 10 days. Contact the hospital if you have heavy bleeding.

Getting your results

You usually get the results within 2 weeks. The doctor who arranged the biopsy will give them to you.

Waiting for test results can be worrying. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
17 Aug 2017
  • ESMO-ESGO-ESTRO Consensus Conference on Endometrial Cancer: diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    N Columbo and others (2016) 

    Annals of Oncology 27: 16–41

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors)
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

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