A breast biopsy involves taking a piece of tissue and/or fluid from the breast, usually to test for breast cancer.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
A breast biopsy is often needed when breast lumps are found on physical exam. Women with an abnormal mammogram are often also advised to have a biopsy. Other unexplained breast problems may need a biopsy to determine the cause. Most biopsies are done to determine whether breast cancer is present.
How is the procedure performed?
Tissue samples for a breast biopsy may be obtained with the following procedures:
Fine needle aspiration. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area. The healthcare professional uses a thin needle to obtain fluid and cells from the lump.
Needle biopsy. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area. If the lump is seen only on mammogram, a needle is guided under X-ray or ultrasound guidance to take a sample.
Incisional biopsy. The woman is generally put to sleep with general anesthesia. The healthcare professional removes a sample of the lump or suspicious tissue.
- Excisional biopsy. The woman is generally put to sleep with general anesthesia. The healthcare professional removes all of the lump or suspicious tissue, as well as a surrounding area of healthy tissue.
The fluid and tissue will be carefully studied to determine first if it is cancer. If it is, the tissue then will be tested to see what cell type the cancer is, how fast it is likely to spread, and what kinds of chemotherapy or hormonal therapy are likely to be effective against it.