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Breast needle biopsy is the removal of a sample of breast tissue using a needle. The sample is examined in a lab. There are different types of breast needle biopsies:
Breast needle biopsy is done to examine a suspicious area in the breast. It may be done if any of the following are found:
The biopsy can identify the area as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the biopsy:
You may receive local anesthesia. If this is the case, the area that is being operated on will be numbed.
The doctor will choose from several types of biopsies to get a tissue sample:
The skin over the area will be cleaned. A small needle will be inserted into the breast tissue. Fluid and/or tissue will be removed. The needle may be removed and re-inserted more than one time. After this is done, the doctor will apply pressure to the area and cover the spot with a bandage.
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An ultrasound device is used to locate the area where the biopsy needs to be taken. After the location is found, a small needle will be inserted in the breast tissue. Samples of fluid and/or tissue will be removed. A bandage will be applied after the needle is removed.
The doctor may have you lie down on your stomach or sit depending on the equipment being used. Mammogram or ultrasound images will be taken to locate the suspicious area. The doctor will make a tiny cut in your breast and insert a special probe. Using the probe, the doctor will remove several core samples of breast tissue from the area. After this is done, the area will be covered with a bandage.
In some instances, the suspicious area can only be seen using an MRI. Because of this, an MRI-guided breast biopsy may be needed. This procedure takes more time. Tell your doctor if you have a cardiac pacemaker. It may affect the procedure.
It will take less than one hour. After the procedure, the tissue collected will be sent to a pathologist who will look at it under a microscope. It may take about 2-5 days to receive the test results.
There will be slight pain in your breast after the biopsy. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Biopsy. The Breastcancer.org website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/biopsy.jsp. Updated September 17, 2012. Accessed January 22, 2013.
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Heywang-Köbrunner SH, Sinnatamby R, Lebeau A, et al. Interdisciplinary consensus on the uses and technique of MRI-guided vacuum-assisted breast biopsy (VAB): results of a European consensus meeting. Eur J Radiol. 2009;72:289.
Kinds of biopsies. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, Cancer Prevention Institute of California website. Available at: http://dcis.info/biopsy-kinds.html. Accessed January 22, 2013.
Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC. Procedures for Primary Care Physicians. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book; 1994.
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Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last updated 01/15/2014