During a biopsy, a surgeon will extract a sample of tissue or fluid from the affected area or from several areas of the body to obtain a basis of comparison. They will then test the tissue or observe it through a microscope to identify the tell-tale characteristics of malignant lung cancer or mesothelioma cells.


Patients are given anesthesia before undergoing a procedure where several incisions are made near the chest cavity.

In one incision, a tube with a light and possibly a camera attached — a device known as an endoscope — is inserted to observe the affected area.

Through the other incisions, small, precise instruments are inserted in order to obtain tissue. The surgeon’s movements are guided by the video input from the endoscope monitor.

This type of biopsy is used most commonly when exploring for asbestos-related lung cancers or mesothelioma deep inside the body.


This type of biopsy gathers fluid from the pleural cavity through the use of a needle or tube. Only local anesthesia is used, allowing the patient to be awake for the procedure. Any obtained fluids are sent to the lab for examination. This type of biopsy is most commonly used to observe biomarkers for mesothelioma.

Fine Needle Aspiration

Fine needle aspiration involves the insertion of a long, thin, hollow needle into tissue areas of concern. A small tissue sample is obtained within the hollow needle before removal.

This type of biopsy is most common with soft tissue masses just under the skin or within the breasts, making it uncommon for asbestos-related disease diagnosis.


A thoracotomy is a major procedure requiring general anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision in order to separate the ribs and expose the lung. Masses or small pieces of tissue will be removed for examination.

Because of the invasive nature of this surgery, it most commonly used when large masses are detected and removal is likely necessary.

Endoscopic Biopsy

Endoscopic biopsies involve the insertion of a long, thin tube with a camera and light attached. A surgical instrument may also be attached to the endoscope, allowing for incisions to be made remotely by the surgeon. Endoscopic biopsies can be used in thoracoscopy to inspect the chest cavity as well as areas like the colon, stomach, and gastrointestinal tract.

Incisional (Core) Biopsy

An incisional biopsy is the name of the biopsy procedure when small pieces of tissue are extracted for observation, such as in a fine needle aspiration procedure.

Excisional Biopsy

An excisional biopsy involves the removal of large portions of tissue for study and for the purposes of removing suspected malignant masses like cancer tumors. An example of this type of biopsy procedure would be a thoracotomy.