What is breast biopsy?
A breast biopsy is a procedure that is recommended by your healthcare providers in order to remove a small sample of breast tissue for laboratory testing.
A breast biopsy is considered as a solution to evaluate a suspicious area in your breast to determine whether it is breast cancer. There are several types of breast biopsy procedures.
A breast biopsy will provide a sample of breast tissue that doctors use this to identify and diagnose abnormalities in the cells that make up breast lumps, other unusual breast changes, or suspicious or concerning findings on a mammogram or ultrasound. The lab report from the breast biopsy can help your doctors determine whether you need additional surgery or other treatment.
Why is breast biopsy performed?
There are a couple of reasons why the breast biopsy may be done:
- You or your doctor feels a lump or thickening in your breast, and your doctor suspects breast cancer
- Your mammogram shows a suspicious area in your breast
- An ultrasound scan reveals a suspicious finding
- Your breast MRI reveals a suspicious finding
- You have unusual nipple or areolar changes, including crusting, scaling, dimpling skin or a bloody discharge
What should I know before receiving breast biopsy?
There is some general information that you should notice before breast biopsy:
Risks associated with a breast biopsy include:
- Bruising and swelling of the breast
- Infection or bleeding at the biopsy site
- Altered breast appearance, depending on how much tissue is removed and how your breast heals
- Additional surgery or other treatment, depending on biopsy results
- Contact your doctor if you develop a fever, if the biopsy site becomes red or warm, or if you have unusual drainage from the biopsy site. These can be signs of an infection that may require prompt treatment.
How to prepare for breast biopsy?
Before the breast biopsy, telling your healthcare provider if you:
- Have any allergies
- Have taken aspirin in the last seven days
- Are taking blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants)
- Are unable to lie on your stomach for an extended period of time
In case your biopsy will be done using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), tell your doctor if you have a cardiac pacemaker or other electronic device implanted in your body or if you’re pregnant or think you may be pregnant. An MRI generally isn’t recommended under these circumstances.
Wear a bra to your appointment. Your health care team may place a cold pack against the biopsy site after the procedure, and the bra can hold the cold pack in place and provide support for your breast.
What happens during breast biopsy?
During a surgical biopsy, a portion of the breast mass is removed for examination (incisional biopsy) or the entire breast mass may be removed (excisional biopsy, wide local excision or lumpectomy). A surgical biopsy is usually done in an operating room using sedation given through a vein in your hand or arm (intravenously) and a local anesthetic to numb your breast.
If the breast mass can’t be felt, your radiologist may use a technique called wire localization to map the route to the mass for the surgeon. During wire localization, the tip of a thin wire is positioned within the breast mass or just through it. This is usually done right before surgery.
During surgery, the surgeon will attempt to remove the entire breast mass along with the wire. To help ensure that the entire mass has been removed, the tissue is sent to the hospital lab to confirm whether breast cancer has been detected and if so, the edges (margins) of the mass are evaluated to determine whether cancer cells are present in the margins (positive margins).
If cancer cells are present at the margins, you will be scheduled for another surgery so more tissue can be removed. If the margins are clear (negative margins), then the cancer has been removed adequately.
What happens after breast biopsy?
After the procedure, you will go home with only bandages and an ice pack over the biopsy site. Although you should calm for the rest of the day, you’ll be able to resume your normal activities within a day. Bruising is common after core needle biopsy procedures.
To ease pain and discomfort after a breast biopsy, you may take a non-aspirin pain reliever containing acetaminophen and apply a cold pack as needed to reduce swelling.
If you have any questions about breast biopsy, please consult with your doctor to better understand your instructions.
Explanation of results
What do my results mean?
The pathology report includes details about the size and consistency of the tissue samples, the location of the biopsy site, and whether cancer, noncancerous (benign) changes or precancerous cells were present.
If your breast biopsy result reveals normal or benign breast changes, your doctor will need to see if the radiologist and pathologist agree on the findings. Sometimes the opinions of these two experts differ. For example, your radiologist may find that your mammogram results suggest a more-suspicious lesion such as breast cancer or precancerous lesion, but your pathology report reveals normal breast tissue. In this case, you may need more surgery to obtain more tissue to further evaluate the area.
If your pathology report says that breast cancer is present, it will include information about the cancer itself, such as what type of breast cancer you have and additional information, such as whether the cancer is hormone receptor positive or negative. You and your doctor can then develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs.
Depending on the laboratory and hospital, the normal range for breast biopsy may vary.
Please discuss with your doctor any questions you may have about your test results.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Breast biopsy. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/breast-biopsy/details/results/rsc-20236114 . Accessed March 13, 2017.
Breast biopsy. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-biopsy.html . Accessed March 13, 2017.
Breast biopsy. http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-biopsy . Accessed March 13, 2017.
Review Date: September 8, 2017 | Last Modified: September 8, 2017