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Core Needle Breast Biopsy 

Breast cancer and other breast conditions can be diagnosed through a core needle biopsy. A core needle breast biopsy is a minimally invasive diagnostic procedure. During the biopsy, a hollow needle is used to draw out a small sample of breast tissue, which is evaluated under a microscope for cancerous cells or indicators of other medical conditions.  

Conditions Diagnosed     

Core needle breast biopsies are most often used to diagnose—or rule out—breast cancer. A physician may order this procedure for several reasons, including: 

  • A palpable lump or thickening of tissue is found in the breast  
  • Abnormal changes to breast skin, including discharge from the nipple area  
  • A breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or mammogram shows an abnormality within the breast   

A core needle biopsy test can confirm the presence of non-cancerous breast conditions in addition to breast cancer, including:  

  • Cysts  
  • Fibroadenomas  
  • Hematomas  
  • Abscesses  
  • Microcalcifications  
  • Sclerosing adenosis  

Procedure Details   

Unlike a surgical biopsy that may require general anesthesia, core needle breast biopsy is an outpatient procedure that uses local anesthesia to numb a portion of the breast. Here’s how it works: 

  • The patient lies flat on an exam table, or face-down on a special platform with an opening to accommodate the breasts.   
  • A local anesthetic is injected into the biopsy site to numb the area and prevent discomfort.  
  • Imaging technology, such as ultrasound or MRI, may be used to pinpoint the location of the breast abnormality.  
  • A tiny incision is made in the breast, and a thin, hollow needle is inserted to draw out small pieces of tissue—about the size of a grain of rice. This process may be repeated several times.   
  • In some cases, a very small, stainless steel clip is inserted into the breast to mark what area was biopsied—this is useful for follow-up care and is virtually unnoticeable.  
  • The incision sites are bandaged (no stitches are necessary) and the patient can go home.   
  • The tissue samples are evaluated under a microscope and a report is sent to the patient’s physician, who will discuss the results with the patient.  

What to Expect   

Most women are advised to relax and avoid high-impact activities for a few days following the procedure. Swelling, bruising and mild pain may develop, but discomfort can usually be alleviated by using an ice pack and an over-the-counter pain reliever. Scarring is uncommon, although possible.  

Core needle biopsies, imaging procedures and other specialized breast health services are provided at Tampa General Hospital.