Breast Biopsy (cont.)

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Who should have a breast biopsy?

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Anyone, female or male, with a suspicious breast growth 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.

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 (non-cancerous) breast tumor and is found in young women.

How is a suspicious breast growth discovered?

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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.

Patients who discover a lump in a breast should see a physician for testing. They should also see a physician if they find a lump in an armpit or above a collarbone (either of which could indicate the presence of spreading cancer). Finally, a physician should be consulted if they have:

  • red or irritated breast skin,
  • scaly skin on the breast,
  • dimpling skin on the breast,
  • swelling breast skin,
  • nipple discharge other than milk,
  • nipple retraction or inversion,
  • nipple itching,
  • a change in the size or shape of a breast, or
  • breast pain.

It is important to remember that these signs and symptoms do not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2014

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