to view an animated version of this procedure.
is when a needle is used to remove a sample of breast tissue. The sample is examined under a microscope.
There are different types of breast needle biopsies:
Reasons for Procedure
Breast needle biopsy is done to look at suspicious part of the breast. It can find out of the spot is cancerous or not.
It may be done if there is:
- A breast lump
- Tissue thickening
- Change in a nipple
- Leaking from the nipple
Abnormal ultrasound or
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor may meet with you to talk about:
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the biopsy
- Tests that will need to be done before the biopsy
- Showering with antibacterial soap the morning of the biopsy
The doctor will give local anesthesia—the area will be numbed.
Description of the Procedure
The doctor will choose a type of needle biopsy, such as:
Fine Needle Aspiration
The doctor will insert a small needle into the breast tissue. The needle will remove fluid and/or tissue. The needle may be removed and re-inserted more than one time. After this is done, the doctor will apply pressure to the area. A bandage will be placed over the site.
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Ultrasound-directed Needle Biopsy
An ultrasound device will find the site where the biopsy needs to be taken. After the site is found, a small needle will be inserted in the breast tissue. The needle will take samples of fluid and/or tissue. A bandage will be applied after the needle is removed.
Stereotactic Core Needle Biopsy
or ultrasound images will be taken to find the correct site. The doctor will make a tiny cut in the breast and insert a special probe. Using the probe, the doctor will remove several core samples of breast tissue from the site. After this is done, the site will be covered with a bandage.
MRI-guided Breast Biopsy
Sometimes the site can only be seen with
MRI scan. Because of this, an MRI-guided breast biopsy may be needed. This procedure takes more time.
Vacuum-assisted Device Biopsy
The doctor will insert a needle into the breast. Pressure from a vacuum will pull tissue from the mass through the needle. The tissue is then placed into a sampling chamber. Multiple tissue samples can be taken with one needle insertion.
How Long Will It Take?
Less than 1 hour
Will It Hurt?
There will be slight pain in the breast after the biopsy. Pain medicine can help.
At the Care Center
The staff will give instructions on preventing infection. Most can go home after the biopsy.
Recovery is usually fast. Core needle biopsies may take several weeks to heal.
Test results may take 1 to 2 weeks.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Excess bleeding, redness, swelling, or discharge from the biopsy site
- Lasting nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicine
- Problems breathing or chest pain
- Pain and/or swelling in the feet, calves, or legs
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Biopsy. Breast Cancer website. Available at: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/biopsy. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Breast biopsy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-biopsy.html. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/breast-cancer-in-women. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Breast cancer—health professional version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/hp. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/breastbius. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Wang M, He X, et al. A sensitivity and specificity comparison of fine needle aspiration cytology and core needle biopsy in evaluation of suspicious breast lesions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Breast. 2017;31:157-166.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 9/21/2021