Breast Biopsy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Who should have a breast biopsy?

Anyone, female or male, with a suspicious breast growth, abnormality detected on imaging study, or other symptoms of breast cancer should undergo a biopsy. Ninety-nine percent of all breast cancers occur in females, however, males can and do get breast cancer. Therefore, men should regularly examine their breasts as females do for lumps or other cancer symptoms. (Males with the genetic disorder Klinefelter syndrome, which is associated with increased breast development, have approximately the same risk of developing breast cancer as females.)

In what setting is the breast biopsy done?

Breast biopsies are performed in the doctor's office, an outpatient facility, or a hospital operating room. The setting depends on the size and location of the growth, the patient's general health, and the type of biopsy performed. Because physicians can perform biopsies in a short time with minimal risk of serious complications, the patient usually does not need to remain hospitalized overnight unless an underlying health problem requires close monitoring. A stereotactic breast biopsy uses mammography images to guide the location of the biopsy. Ultrasound imaging may also be used to guide the breast biopsy procedure.

What may a benign result indicate?

Among the most common benign growths in the breast are cysts (sacs filled with fluid or semisolid material), intraductal papillomas (small wart-like growths that project above a tissue surface), and lumps formed by fat necrosis (the death of tissue often as a result of trauma to the breast). A fibroadenoma is the most common type of benign (noncancerous) breast tumor and is found in young women.

How is a suspicious breast growth discovered?

A suspicious breast growth may be found by a patient's self-examination, a physician's clinical examination, or a screening procedure such as a mammogram. Small calcium deposits, known as calcifications, are often identified in imaging studies of breast cancers and precancers. These may also be present in benign lesions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/5/2016

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