A breast biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of breast tissue for testing in a laboratory. A breast biopsy provides a tissue sample that helps the doctor identify and diagnose abnormalities in the cells that form breast lumps, abnormal changes in the breast, or findings that are suspicious from a mammogram or ultrasound. A biopsy lab report can help determine whether a woman needs additional surgery or other treatment.
The purpose of a breast biopsy
The specialists at Novomed Breast Care Clinic might recommend a breast biopsy if:
- You or your doctor has felt a lump or thickness in the chest that is suspected to be cancerous
- Your mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI revealed a suspicious area in the chest
- You have abnormal changes in the nipple or areola, including peeling, scaling, or dimpling skin or a bloody discharge
How to prepare for a breast biopsy?
Before your breast biopsy, make sure to inform your doctor if:
- You have any allergies or allergic reactions
- You have taken aspirin in the last seven days
- You took blood-thinning medications
- You are unable to lie on your stomach for long periods
If a biopsy is done using MRI, inform your doctor about any electronic devices implanted in your body, such as a pacemaker, or if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is not recommended under these circumstances.
Wear a bra when attending your appointment. Our breast care team may place cold compresses on the biopsy site after the procedure, and a bra can hold cold compresses in place and provide support for your breasts.
Types of breast biopsy
Different types of breast biopsy procedures can be used to obtain a tissue sample from the breast. Your doctor will choose the suitable biopsy procedure based on the size, location, and other characteristics of abnormal breast growth.
In many biopsies, the doctor will give you an anesthetic to numb the site of the breast biopsy.
Types of breast biopsies include:
This is a simple and safe type of breast biopsy that can be used to check for a lump that a woman might feel during a clinical breast exam. To do this, you will lie on a table, and as the doctor stabilizes the mass with one hand, she uses the other to insert a thin needle into the lump.
The needle is then attached to a syringe that can collect a sample of cells or fluid from the lump. Fine-needle aspiration is a fast way to distinguish a fluid-filled cyst from a solid mass and to avoid the more invasive biopsy procedures.
A needle biopsy is used to check and evaluate a breast lump detected on a mammogram or ultrasound, or a mass that a doctor feels during a clinical breast exam. In this procedure, a radiologist or a surgeon uses a thin, hollow needle to take tissue samples from a breast lump, often under ultrasound guidance.
Many samples are collected and analyzed to identify features that indicate disease. Depending on the location of the lump, other imaging methods, such as radiography or magnetic resonance imaging, may be used to guide the position of the needle to obtain a tissue sample.
Ultrasound-guided needle biopsy
This type of needle biopsy uses ultrasound – an imaging procedure that uses sound waves to create detailed images of the breast structures. During the procedure, you will lie on your back or side on the ultrasound table.
The radiologist places an ultrasound device on the breast to determine the location of the lump inside the breast, then makes a small incision to insert the needle and take several tissue samples with the needle to send to the laboratory for analysis.
MRI-guided needle biopsy
This type of needle biopsy is performed under MRI guidance, which is an imaging technique that takes multiple images of the breast and combines them using a computer to create detailed 3D images. During the procedure, you lie face down on a padded examination table with your breasts inside a hollow area in the table.
The MRI machine provides images that help determine a specific location to take the biopsy. A small incision is made to insert the needle, and several tissue samples are taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
In a surgical biopsy, the surgeon makes a small incision in your skin to remove all or part of the breast lump. A surgical biopsy is performed when the biopsy cannot be accessed with the needle.
During a surgical biopsy, you lie on the operating bed, and the doctor places an IV cannula into a vein in your arm. Your doctor may prescribe a sedative to help you relax.
The doctor administers local or general anesthesia, so you will not feel pain during the procedure. After the biopsy is taken, the incision will be closed with stitches or tape.
It may take several days before you get the result of the biopsy. After the biopsy is performed, breast tissue is sent to a laboratory for a pathologist to study the sample using a microscope and special tests.
The pathologist prepares the medical report that is sent to your doctor, who shares the results with you. The medical report contains details about the size and shape of tissue samples, the location of the biopsy, and whether there is a cancerous tumor, non-cancerous (benign) changes, or the presence of precancerous cells.
If the result of your breast biopsy shows normal or benign breast changes, your doctor will need to find out whether the radiologist and pathologist will agree with the results.
Sometimes the opinions of the two experts differ. For example, a radiologist may find that the results indicate the presence of a suspicious lesion such as breast cancer or precancerous lesions, even though the medical report indicates the presence of normal breast tissue. In this case, you may need additional surgery to obtain more tissue to evaluate the area further.
If the medical report indicates the presence of breast cancer; it will contain information about cancer itself, such as the type of breast cancer, and additional information, such as whether the cancer is a positive or a negative hormone receptor. You can then work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs.