Exploring Breast Biopsy Procedures

What is a breast biopsy?

A breast biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves extracting tissue from the affected area so additional testing can be done in a laboratory setting. Studies show that most biopsies result in benign diagnoses, but it is always best to take preventive measures.

The procedure can be performed under local anesthesia (a patient is awake and medicine is injected to numb the area of concern) or general anesthesia (medicine is administered to put you in a deep sleep during the procedure).

A breast biopsy may be recommended by your physician for several reasons, including but not limited to: a palpable lump, an unusual grouping of cells or tissue seen during a mammogram or ultrasound, or discharge or crust on your nipple area.

Different Types of Breast Biopsies

The type of biopsy that is performed depends on several factors, including the placement of the tissue and the size of the lump.

The different types of breast biopsies that we offer include:

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: A thin needle suctions out the liquid and cells to enable testing. This may be the best option if the doctor believes the cyst or lump is fluid-filled.
  • Core-needle biopsy: A more solid mass of tissue is removed with the assistance of a hollow needle. The patient undergoes local anesthesia for this procedure.
  • Surgical biopsy: This is the most involved of the biopsy procedures, as it obtains more tissue from the breast. The surgeon makes a small incision to take out the lump and the surrounding tissue.

Special tools may be used to help guide the needle and assist with the procedure, including:

  • Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy: The physician employs imaging equipment to help locate the precise area of the questionable tissue before inserting the needle for biopsy.
  • Stereotactic core biopsy: The physician uses mammogram images to direct the biopsy needle to the exact spot in the breast that requires biopsy.

What you should know about breast biopsies

A breast biopsy doesn’t require an overnight stay in the hospital and recovery is usually quick. However, as with any surgery, you should be prepared for possible side effects. You might experience swelling and bruising of the breast, bleeding or an infection at the site of the incision or injection, or, as a rare occurrence, a misshapen breast.

To help your doctor prepare for your breast biopsy, mention all medications you have been taking, any known allergies, and whether you have a condition that prevents you from resting on your stomach comfortably. Your biopsy might entail the use of an MRI, so inform your doctor if you have a pacemaker or if you are pregnant.

Unless you are having a surgical biopsy, you likely will not be under anesthesia for the procedure. However, the area might be numbed.

What’s next?

Your tissue sample will be submitted to and examined by a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in the analysis of blood and tissue. Your doctor will share the pathologist’s findings with you a few days after the biopsy. If the sample is deemed benign, or noncancerous, your doctor will discuss a follow up imaging plan for your breasts. If cancerous cells are discovered, the pathology report will also include the type of breast cancer you have. This will help guide your doctor toward the next steps in your treatment plan.

Learn More About Our Procedures