What is a breast biopsy?
A breast biopsy is a procedure used to take a sample from the breast to evaluate it for cancer or other benign growths. Many times there are suspicious masses detected on the breast either by physical examination or mammogram. The best way to evaluate them is by taking a biopsy and send it to the lab for analysis.
Why would I a breast biopsy?
A breast biopsy is recommended when:
- A breast ultrasound detects an abnormal mass.
- Physical examination is positive for suspicious growth.
- There are abnormal skin changes like ulceration, nipple retraction, or dimpling.
What happens during the procedure?
There are several techniques to take a biopsy. This depends on many factors like your breast size, the location of the abnormality, and its size. Your doctor will recommend a specific type based on your situation. Ask your doctor to explain.
Types of breast biopsy include:
Core needle biopsy. This type uses a hollow, wide needle to take out pieces of tissue (about the size of a grain of rice) from the area being examined. This is most often done using ultrasound guidance.
Stereotactic biopsy. This type is used when there is a lot of calcification to the lesion and it is too small to be seen with an ultrasound. Mammograms are used here to locate the area of interest within the breast.
Fine-needle aspiration biopsy. This technique uses a very thin needle that is several inches long to obtain cells, tissue, and fluids. This method can be used to differentiate between a solid mass and a fluid-filled cyst.
After the biopsy is done, a small marker may be left in the place where the biopsy was performed. This will help locate the biopsied area in further imaging tests or surgeries if required.
What to expect after the procedure?
The procedure is generally safe and low-risk. You will be able to resume your regular daily activities within a day or so. You will leave with a bandage over the biopsy site. Pain and bruising are expected after the procedure. Over-the-counter pain medications may help to reduce the pain.
Your results may take few days before they are available. The lab will send a report to your doctor that includes all details and findings of the biopsy. This will decide whether the mass was a benign lesion like fibroadenoma, precancerous, or cancerous. Your doctor will discuss with you the best treatment plan available based on your results.
Mayo Clinic: Breast biopsy
Cleveland Clinic: Needle Biopsy