A breast biopsy is a diagnostic procedure in which a small amount of breast tissue is collected and evaluated in a laboratory. It is considered the most reliable way to definitively diagnose or rule out most breast conditions, including cancer.
What Can a Breast Biopsy Diagnose?
Breast biopsies are often performed to check a breast lump or suspicious area of tissue for cancer. While growths in breast tissue are common and typically aren’t cancerous, an imaging procedure, biopsy or both are necessary to rule out cancer.
Other breast irregularities that can be diagnosed through a breast biopsy include:
- Fluid-filled cysts
- Galactocele cysts
- Sclerosing adenosis
What Does a Breast Biopsy Involve?
The details of a breast biopsy will vary according to what type of procedure is performed. There are multiple approaches to breast biopsy, including:
Core Needle Biopsy
A core needle biopsy involves drawing out very small pieces of suspicious tissue using a thin needle.
Stereotactic biopsy incorporates mammography to locate the precise location of a breast abnormality. A small amount of tissue or cells from this area is then removed—sometimes from multiple angles—using a vacuum-assisted device or another minimally invasive technique.
During an ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, high-frequency sound waves are used to identify the abnormal lump or tissue. A needle aspiration or another minimally invasive technique is then performed to draw out a small amount of tissue or cells for testing.
Similar to an ultrasound-guided biopsy, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided breast biopsy incorporates imaging technology to pinpoint the location of the abnormality. This allows for minimally invasive techniques to be used, including needle aspirations and vacuum-assisted devices.
A surgical breast biopsy involves surgically removing an entire mass or section of tissue for testing, rather than drawing out small cell or tissue samples.
What Should I Expect During a Breast Biopsy?
As discussed, your experience will depend on what type of breast biopsy you receive. Generally speaking, though, most breast biopsies:
- Are outpatient procedures
- Leave minimal or no scarring
- Use local anesthesia to numb discomfort (surgical biopsies may require general anesthesia)
- Provide conclusive results
General risks associated with breast biopsies include breast swelling, bruising or change in appearance. Although rare, infection at the biopsy site is possible.
To ensure accurate diagnoses and world-class outcomes, the breast health experts at Tampa General Hospital provide breast biopsies and imaging procedures in a state-of-the-art setting.