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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What about pain and complications from a breast biopsy?

Except for a minor sting from the injected anesthesia, patients usually feel no pain before or during a procedure. After a procedure, some patients may experience some soreness and pain as well as bruising and minor skin discoloration. Usually, an over-the-counter drug is sufficient to alleviate any discomfort.

The risk of complications, such as infection and bleeding, is small for nonsurgical procedures and slightly higher for surgical procedures.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of nonsurgical procedures versus surgical breast biopsies?

Generally, nonsurgical biopsies are less stressful, do not disfigure the skin, leave no internal scar to interfere with the accuracy of future mammograms, and minimize the risk of complications.

However, nonsurgical biopsies are not always as reliable as surgical biopsies in producing a diagnosis, and the results at times may be inconclusive. For this reason, some patients who undergo a nonsurgical biopsy must also undergo a follow-up surgical biopsy.

What are the different types of breast biopsy procedures and what do they involve?

Breast biopsy procedures include

  • fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB),
  • core needle biopsy (CNB),
  • vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, and
  • excision biopsy (surgery).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/5/2016

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