Dirty Margins

A biopsy is said to have dirty margins when the pathologist sees tumor cells in the area of normal tissue around a tumor that’s been removed from the body. The goal of a surgery is to remove a tumor completely, which is why surgeons take out the visible tumor and 2-3 centimeters of healthy tissue around it. If a pathologist examines that healthy tissue and finds cancer cells in it, those dirty margins indicate that cancer cells are likely still in the body, too, around the surgical incision or scar.