What is Breast Biopsy?
A breast biopsy is the removal of a sample of breast tissue to be examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. A biopsy is recommended when a significant abnormality is found, either during a physical examination and/or a mammogram or ultrasound. Examples of abnormality can include a breast lump felt during physical self examination or tissue changes noticed from a mammogram test.
There are different types of breast biopsies and your doctor will choose the one most suited to your situation.
Fine needle aspiration biopsy is done by inserting a thin needle into the suspicious lump and removing cells that are then examined under a microscope. Needle aspiration is sometimes done to distinguish between a solid lump and a fluid-filled lump (cyst). If the lump is a cyst, it will collapse and disappear after the fluid is removed. If there is little or no fluid, the lump probably is not a cyst and another type of biopsy will be done.
Core needle biopsy is done using a large needle fitted with a special cutting tip. As the needle goes through the skin toward the lump (or suspicious area found during a mammogram or breast ultrasound), it collects a core of tissue about the size of a pencil lead.
Stereotactic biopsy evaluates a lump that cannot be felt during a breast exam but is seen on mammogram or ultrasound. It is done using a special type of X-ray instrument that can precisely locate the area of the breast from which the biopsy sample is to be taken. A small incision is then made in the skin of the breast and the instrument guides a needle to the exact biopsy site to collect a tissue sample.
Open biopsy is done by making an incision in the skin and removing a sample of the suspicious lump, or the entire lump. If the lump contains cancer cells, all or part of the breast can be removed immediately, (however, this is not commonly done). If the doctor cannot feel an obvious lump, a needlelike probe can be placed in the suspicious area during a mammogram done just before surgery. The probe then guides the doctor to the correct area for collecting a biopsy sample.
After the Breast Biopsy
After a surgical biopsy, the incision will be closed with a steri-stripe, a thin, clear medical tape to seal the edges of the incision and covered with another bandage. The bandage can usually be removed in one or two days.
Only an open biopsy will require stitches. They are usually taken out approximately one week afterward. Depending on the extent of the operation, normal activities can be resumed in approximately one to three days. Vigorous exercise may be limited for one to three weeks.