What is a breast biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure used to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope. A breast biopsy is a procedure in which samples of breast tissue are removed to determine whether or not cancer or other abnormalities are present. This procedure is performed by the physician in order to examine cells of the breast that may be abnormal or cancerous.


What will happen during the procedure?

Biopsies may be done under local or general anesthesia. There are several types of breast biopsy procedures. The type of biopsy performed will depend on the location and size of the breast lump or abnormality. Types of breast biopsy procedures include, but are not limited to, the following:

Fine needle aspiration biopsy: A very thin needle is placed into the lump or suspicious area to remove a small sample of fluid and/or tissue. No incision is necessary. A fine needle aspiration biopsy may be done to help see if the suspicious area is a cyst (a fluid-filled sac) or a lump.

Core needle biopsy: a large needle is guided into a lump or suspicious area to remove a small cylinder of tissue (also called a core). No incisions are needed for this procedure.

Surgical biopsy: The breast surgeon removes part or all of a lump or suspicious area through an incision to the breast. There are two types of surgical biopsies. During an incisional biopsy, a small part of the lump is removed. During an excisional biopsy, the entire lump is removed.

Vacuum-assisted core biopsy: the skin is numbed and a small cut (less than ¼ inch) is made. A hollow probe is put in through the cut and guided into the abnormal area of breast tissue using x-rays, ultrasound, or MRI. A cylinder of tissue is then pulled into the probe through a hole in its side, and a rotating knife inside the probe cuts the tissue sample from the rest of the breast. These methods allow multiple tissue samples to be removed through one small opening. Vacuum-assisted core biopsies are done in outpatient settings. No stitches are needed, and there’s usually very little scarring.

Punch biopsy: A punch biopsy is when the surgeon removes a small circle of skin tissue to biopsy.

What happens after the procedure?

The recovery process will vary depending on the type of biopsy performed and the type of anesthesia used.

If you received general anesthesia, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home. If this procedure was performed on an outpatient basis, you should plan to have another person drive you home.

If you received local anesthesia, you will be discharged to your home after you have completed the recovery period.

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