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Endometrial Biopsy

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What is the test?

Doctors take biopsies of areas that look abnormal and use them to detect cancer, precancerous cells, infections, and other conditions. For some biopsies, the doctor inserts a needle into the skin and draws out a sample; in other cases, tissue is removed during a surgical procedure.

This test takes a tissue sample from the lining of your uterus (the endometrium) to evaluate it for problems, including endometrial cancer, that might explain unusual bleeding.

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How do I prepare for the test?

If you are not bleeding heavily, you might want to take an NSAID medicine such as ibuprofen one to two hours before the test, to reduce the possibility of uterine cramps during the procedure. Ask your physician for a recommendation ahead of time.

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What happens when the test is performed?

This test is performed in the doctor's office. It begins with a pelvic examination (see page 44). Then, after cleaning your vagina and cervix (the entrance to the uterus, visible from your vagina) with antibacterial soap, the doctor might put a clamp on your cervix to hold it steady. He or she inserts a flexible, sterile plastic instrument called a pipelle, which looks like a drinking straw, through the opening in your cervix and positions it several inches into the uterus. Then the doctor pulls a thin wire out of the center of the pipelle. As the rod is pulled out, the pipelle becomes hollow and creates suction, drawing some of the cells from the lining of your uterus into the pipelle. To get a good sample, the doctor will move the pipelle forward and backward a few times before removing it. The cell sample is deposited in some fluid to be examined later under a microscope. The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes.

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What risks are there from the test?

You might have pelvic cramps (sometimes intense) during the procedure and sometimes for a day or two afterward; you may also experience a small amount of vaginal bleeding. It is extremely rare to have heavy bleeding or to develop an infection that needs treatment.There is also a small risk of disturbing a very early pregnancy. To guard against this, your doctor might order a pregnancy test before performing the biopsy.

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Must I do anything special after the test is over?

Call your doctor if you develop a fever of over 100° F, or if you have vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than two days or is heavier than your normal menstrual period. Your doctor may also recommend avoiding sexual intercourse until two or three days after any bleeding has stopped.

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How long is it before the result of the test is known?

It usually takes four to seven working days for the doctor to get the final report.

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