A breast biopsy is a procedure usually performed if your doctor finds something concerning or questionable during a mammogram, breast exam, or ultrasound. During a biopsy, your doctor will remove tissue from the area of concern to examine it up close to rule out more serious conditions, such as cancer. To this day, a breast biopsy is the only way for your doctor to know for sure if the tissue he or she is examining is cancer.
There are a variety of different biopsy procedures your doctor may recommend, depending on a few different factors:
- How Large the Suspicious Area or Lump Is
- Where the Lump or Suspicious Area Is Located
- If You Have More Than One Suspicious Area
- If You Have Other Medical Conditions
Different Types of Breast Biopsies
Depending on your condition and the nature of the suspicious area on your breast, your doctor may perform one of the following types of breast biopsies:
- Fine-Needle Aspiration: During this procedure, your doctor will use a small needle to collect a cell sample from the suspicious area. If the problem area is a lump caused by a cyst, the needle may cause it to collapse on itself. If that happens, your doctor may also examine the fluid for signs of cancer.
- Core Biopsy: In this procedure, your doctor will use a larger needle to remove a tissue sample. There are a couple forms of this procedure, including an ultrasound-guided core biopsy and a stereotactic biopsy.
- Ultrasound-Guided Core Biopsy: In this procedure, your doctor will insert a needle into your breast tissue and use ultrasound technology to help pinpoint the exact location of the suspicious area. Once pinpointed, the needle will collect a tissue sample for examination.
- Stereotactic Biopsy: During this procedure, your doctor will position your breast in the window of a medical instrument so he or she can take mammogram films. The films, known as SCOUT films, make it easier to locate the suspicious area within the breast. Once located, your doctor will insert a needle into the tissue and collect samples for examination.
- Open Excisional Biopsy: This is a surgical procedure that removes an entire lump, so your doctor can study it under a microscope.
- Sentinel Node Biopsy: This procedure pinpoints cancerous lymph nodes, so your doctor can remove them before cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.
Complications of Breast Biopsy
The breast biopsy is generally a safe procedure with rare complications of breast pain, bleeding, infection.
Breast Biopsy After Care
Like many medical procedures, breast biopsies require proper aftercare. In most cases, your doctor will apply dressings over your biopsy site, and you will have to wear a special bra for a few days after the biopsy. Your doctor will also apply stitches or small strips of tape over the biopsy site and will remove it later on at a follow-up appointment. Depending on what type of biopsy you undergo, your doctor may also prescribe pain medication or instruct you to ice the biopsy area at home. In many cases, over-the-counter pain reliever is enough to relieve any discomfort. However, to lower your risk of bleeding, it’s best to avoid aspirin.