Breast Biopsy

What is a breast biopsy?

Breast biopsy is a procedure in which sample of breast tissue is taken to examine for the presence of disease. Its cause and extent may also be identified. The breast tissue can be sampled by either using a needle, or through surgical exploration of the breast region and taking out the abnormal tissue partially or completely.

Your doctor might advise a breast biopsy if there are signs of diseased tissue in your breasts when they are examined or by imaging such as breast ultrasound or mammogram.

What happens during the biopsy of breast tissue?

Biopsy is usually a simple and safe procedure when done by an expert doctor. The exact experience might differ depending upon the type of biopsy you’re having, the size and location of suspected abnormal area in your breasts and its appearance on ultrasound and mammogram.

Types of biopsies

There are three main types of biopsies, most of which can be performed under local anaesthesia:

Fine needle biopsy

This type of biopsy utilizes a small needle that a doctor uses to remove a small amount of fluid or tissue from the abnormal breast area, which can be sent away to the laboratory for testing.

Core needle biopsy

In core needle biopsy, the needle used is larger and has a special tip. The doctor may use imaging methods during the biopsy to locate the concerning area with abnormal tissue, which can be sent away to the laboratory for testing.

Core needle biopsy can be performed by using imagining techniques such as:

  • Ultrasound guided breast biopsy: in which the patient lies supine (on your back) and the doctor uses ultrasound as a guide before sampling the abnormal breast tissue
  • Stereotactic biopsy: in which patient lies prone (on your abdomen) and the doctor uses X-rays to help locate the area of breast to sample.

The doctor may place a small metal clip in breast where the biopsy was taken to mark the area of concern for future reference. This small metal clip is safe, cannot be felt and will not cause any issue during future imaging tests, even on airport screenings.

Surgical biopsy:

Surgical biopsy involves surgical exploration and excision of the abnormal tissue in breasts. This procedure might be performed under general anaesthesia depending upon the doctors decision based depth of excision and other factors.

What happens after a breast biopsy?

A breast biopsy is usually a minor procedure. However, it may cause some bruising, bleeding, pain or infection in the biopsy region. These issues are less common in fine needle biopsy and core needle biopsy as compared to surgical biopsy due to its invasive nature.

Usually biopsy results are available within a week.