What Is A Breast Biopsy?

A breast biopsy is a procedure which takes a sample of a section of breast tissue or sometimes fluid from the suspicious area. The removed cells are examined under a microscope and further tested to check for the presence of breast cancer. The only certain way to know if a suspicious mass is malignant or not, is to undergo a biopsy.

The pathologist will study the sample to determine if cancerous cells are present and if so, what the specific characteristics are. Only about 20% of biopsies of American women are cancerous due to our early detection policies. In other countries, such as Sweden, which are restricted by cost concerns, 80% of biopsies prove to be malignant.

There are 3 types of breast biopsies:

  • Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy
  • Core-Needle Biopsy
  • Surgery Biopsy

The core-needle and surgery biopsy are the most commonly used breast biopsy procedures. There are several factors that help the doctor decide which type of biopsy to recommend. This depends on things like how suspicious the tumor looks, size and location of the tumor, number of tumors there are, and any additional medical problems you might have. You might want to talk to your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of different biopsy types.

What Is A Fine-Needle Aspiration Breast Biopsy?

A fine-needle aspiration biopsy uses a very thin needle attached to a syringe to withdraw tissue or fluid from a suspicious area. The doctor may choose to conduct a fine-needle aspiration when the lump is easily accessible or if the doctor suspects that it may be a fluid-filled cystic lump. During this procedure, the lump should collapse once the fluid inside has been drawn and discarded. Sometimes, an ultrasound is used to help your doctor guide the needle to the exact site.

A fine-needle aspiration biopsy can sometimes miss cancer if the needle doesn’t get a sample from the area of the cancer cells. A second or a different biopsy method should be done if this biopsy doesn’t give a clear diagnosis.


What Is A Core-Needle Breast Biopsy?

Core needle biopsy is the procedure like the fine-needle biopsy but with a slightly larger, hollow needle to remove a small amount of tissue from abnormal area in the breast. It is usually performed while the patient is under local anesthesia, meaning you are awake but the breast is numbed. The needle is usually put in anywhere between 2-6 times to get multiple samples. The radiologist or surgeon performing the core-needle biopsy may use specialized imaging equipment to guide the needle to the desired site such as an ultrasound.

Some bruising can occur, but this procedure usually will not leave and scars inside or outside the breast. There are fewer side effects associated with a core-needle biopsy than with surgical biopsy.


What Is A Surgical Breast Biopsy?

Most health care providers will first try a needle biopsy in order to determine the breast change but in some instances a surgical biopsy may be needed. The surgeon makes smallest incision possible extract all or part of the abnormal lump and often a small amount of normal-looking tissue, that is attached to the lump.

A surgical biopsy is performed while the patient is under local anesthesia, you are awake but the breast is numbed. The surgical biopsies are much more involved than a needle biopsy requiring stitches and usually it will leave a scar.


Once the biopsy is complete, a pathologist examines the tissue or fluid samples under a microscope, looking for abnormal or cancerous cells. The pathology report, can take one or two weeks to complete, will be sent to the your doctor. It indicates whether the suspicious area is cancerous and provides a full picture of your situation. Your doctor will go over the report with you and, if necessary, discuss the treatment options if the biopsy resulted in a cancer diagnosis.

Biopsy is usually a simple procedure which can put your mind at ease concerning a suspicious mammogram or a newly discovered breast lump. Remember that the majority of breast lumps are benign and if yours is not, the early detection of a cancer is the key to the cure for breast cancer.

Before your biopsy your doctor should tell you:

  • The results of your mammogram or any tests that were done indicating the need for a biopsy.
  • Where the area in question is on your breast.
  • When and how you will receive the results of your biopsy.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A POSITIVE BIOPSY?


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