Breast biopsy: A procedure in which a sample of a suspicious breast growth is removed and examined, usually for the presence of cancer. The sample is suctioned out through a needle or removed surgically.
A breast biopsy may be done in a doctor's office, outpatient facility, or 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.
Breast biopsy procedures include fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB), core needle biopsy (CNB), and excision biopsy (surgery). Both types of needle biopsy (FNAB and CNB) are generally less stressful than a surgical biopsy, usually do not disfigure the skin, leave no internal scar to interfere with the accuracy of future mammogram, and minimize the risk of complications. But needle biopsies are not always as reliable as surgical biopsies in producing a conclusive diagnosis.
The basic aim of a breast biopsy is to determine whether a worrisome lump is cancer and, if so, what type it is. Another way to view the procedure is to assure that a lump is benign, or harmless. Fortunately, 4 out of every 5 breast biopsies bring good news and are benign.
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).