Breast Biopsy

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Breast biopsy facts

  • A breast biopsy procedure is usually done to determine whether a growth in the breast is cancerous or benign.
  • A lump or other sign of breast cancer in a man or woman may warrant a breast biopsy.
  • A breast biopsy can be done with a needle or by a surgical procedure.
  • Non-surgical biopsies tend to be less stressful and minimize the risk of complications.
  • Non-surgical biopsies are not always as reliable as surgical biopsies in producing a conclusive diagnosis.
  • The biopsy may be done with imaging guidance.

What is a breast biopsy?

A breast biopsy is a procedure in which part or all of a suspicious breast growth is removed and examined, usually for the presence of cancer. The growth sample is suctioned out through a needle or cut out using a surgical procedure. A pathologist then examines and evaluates it under a microscope to identify non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) tissue.

Words used to refer to the abnormal area or growth before and after diagnosis may include lump, mass, lesion, and tumor.

What is the purpose of a breast biopsy?

The breast biopsy is used to determine whether or not a worrisome lump is cancer and, if it is cancer, what type it is and how to develop a treatment plan. When no cancer is detected, the diagnosis of a benign or harmless lump is reassuring.

What specialties of physicians and practitioners do breast biopsies?

Many physicians and healthcare practitioners can be involved in evaluating a woman for a breast biopsy.

  • For example, breast abnormalities during a physical examination might be noticed by a family physician, internist, gynecologist, or nurse practitioner. Women themselves are frequently the first to detect abnormalities in their breasts.
  • Radiologists are specialists in interpreting x-rays such as mammograms, as well as other imaging studies. Radiologists or surgeons often perform the procedure to obtain these breast tissue samples.
  • Anesthesiologists (specialists in administering anesthesia and monitoring a patient's vital signs) are sometimes necessary during some surgical procedures.
  • Pathologists are physician specialists who examine and identify under a microscope the type of cells in the samples and determine whether or not cancer is present.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2014

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Breast Biopsy - Experience Question: Describe your experience with your breast biopsy.
Breast Biopsy -- Indications Question: Did you have a breast biopsy? Please describe your experience.
Breast Biopsy - Types Question: What kind of breast biopsy procedure did you undergo? Please describe your experience.
Breast Biopsy - Suspicious Growths Question: How did you discover you had a suspicious breast growth?
There are several different types of breast biopsies, depending upon the location and size of the breast lump.

Vacuum-Assisted Breast Biopsy

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad St?ppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is a tissue sampling technique that uses a special instrument and imaging guidance to remove samples of breast tissue through a single, small skin incision. This technique allows the surgeon to remove more tissue through a single incision than is possible with a traditional core biopsy and is a much less invasive procedure than an open surgical biopsy. For these reasons, vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is becoming more common as a diagnostic tool in the management of breast lumpsand abnormalities.

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