What is a Breast Biopsy?

Breast cancer is on the rise, affecting thousands of women each day. Prevention with a healthy lifestyle and early detection is important. Should you discover a lump in the breast, consult your physician immediately for further testing.

What is a Breast Biopsy?

A breast biopsy may be just what you need to determine a course of action and bring your peace of mind. Only 20% of breast lumps are cancerous, but that doesn’t make the experience of getting a breast biopsy any less overwhelming.

What is a Breast Biopsy?

A breast biopsy is an evaluation of questionable breast tissue. A breast biopsy specifically targets the suspected area, leaving the rest of the breast untouched. Up to 90% of biopsies are performed in a minimally-invasive manner without general anesthesia or an incision. Your doctor will prescribe the best procedure depending on the location and size of the mass in your breast tissue.

Types of Breast Biopsies

There are several types of biopsies available to you. Some of the options require local anesthesia while others require general anesthesia. Your doctor will help you determine the best for your situation.

The following require local anesthesia:

  • Fine Needle Breast Biopsy – If the lump is easy to find or if it shows up easily on an ultrasound, a fine needle biopsy may be the option. A surgeon or radiologist or surgeon will numb the area and insert a fine needle. They will draw a sufficient amount of tissue to examine under a microscope.
  • Ultrasound-Guided Core Biopsy – This option is performed if the lump in the breast is easily detected or spotted on an ultrasound. Using ultrasound to locate the mass, a large needle will take a tissue sample for microscopic examination.
  • Stereotactic Breast Biopsy – If the lump is too small to detect with a physical exam or if suspicious microcalcifications were detected by a mammogram, then a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy is recommended. A radiologist will ask you to lie face down on a table. Your breast will drop through an opening in the table. The breast will be compressed by mammography paddles, and an image is projected on the computer. A special needle will collect several tissue samples of the suspicious tissue mass.
  • Skin Punch Biopsy – This biopsy option is for those who may have inflammatory breast cancer. A small cookie cutter-like device is used to take a piece of skin from the breast. If Paget’s disease is suspected, the skin punch biopsy will take a piece of the nipple (areola complex). Typically, a few stitches will be needed to close the wound.

The following require local or general anesthesia:

  • (Open) Excisional Biopsy – An incision is made which removes tissue from the suspicious breast area. A pathologist will offer a diagnosis.
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy – The sentinel lymph node, the lymph node located under the arm, is the most common area from which a cancerous lump in the breast can spread. A special blue dye or radioactive isotope is injected before surgery, and the surgeon will follow the dye or isotope to the sentinel node. It will be removed and sent to a pathologist for diagnosis.
  • MRI- Guided Biopsy – An MRI machine is used for more precise reading of the tumor’s location. This allows the physician to better determine the tumor and remove a sufficient amount of tissue for diagnosis.

What is a Breast Biopsy Diagnosis?

A breast biopsy is a same-day procedure, and if needed, pathology diagnosis results can be given within 24-72 hours after the procedure. The results will determine the type and grade of cancer.

From there, your physician will determine the method of treatment.

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