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to view an animated version of this procedure.
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:
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.
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
MRI scan. 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.
The doctor will insert a needle and use pressure from a vacuum to pull tissue from the mass through the needle. The tissue is then placed into a sampling chamber. This method lets the doctor collect multiple tissue samples during one needle insertion.
It will take less than 1 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.
Home care will include using medications or taking self-care measures to reduce discomfort. The care staff will give instructions on how to change any bandages. Doing this will help reduce the chance of infection.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Biopsy. The Breast Cancer website. Available at:
http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/biopsy. Updated September 17, 2012. Accessed January 22, 2013.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 17, 2013. Accessed January 22, 2013.
Han BK, Schnall MD, et al. Outcome of MRI-guided breast biopsy.
AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2008;191(6):1798-1804.
Heywang-Köbrunner SH, 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(2):289-294.
Kinds of biopsies. Cancer Prevention Institute of California website. Available at:
http://dcis.info/biopsy-kinds.html. Accessed January 22, 2013.
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Last reviewed December 2014 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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