What is Breast Biopsy?

Breast biopsy involves getting a sample of breast tissue to determine if it is cancerous or non-cancerous, also known benign. The different types of breast biopsy include the Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNAB); the Open Surgical Biopsy, which can be excisional or incisional; the Vacuum-Assisted Biopsy (Mammotome or MIBB); the Core Needle Biopsy; and finally, the Large Core Biopsy (ABBI).

Effects of Breast Biopsy

A breast biopsy would determine the patient’s diagnosis regarding breast cancer. This procedure gives patients a chance to closely monitor their breasts at regular intervals. If the biopsy reveals cancer, the patient can also begin searching for treatment options.

Candidates for Breast Biopsy

Patients with a suspicious breast growth or other symptoms of breast cancer should opt for a breast biopsy. Not all may know that even though 99% of breast cancers occur in females, males can and do get breast cancer also. That said, men should also watch out for irregular growths or other cancer symptoms found in their breast area.

Your Consultation

During your consultation, ask your doctor everything you want to know about the procedure. Ask about your use of medication like aspirin and blood thinners and how you should take it after the decision to have a biopsy is made. You will be asked to sign an informed consent form saying that everything about the biopsy has been explained to you.

The Breast Biopsy Procedure

Breast biopsy includes taking a couple of tissue samples from the suspicious area and having to look at it through a microscope. Biopsies can be done using a needle or through surgery to remove part or all of the tumor.

Breast biopsy is often done on an outpatient basis. Before the biopsy, you will be given some local anesthesia that will keep you awake during the procedure. Other patients also prefer to have a sedative in their IVs to take away any anxiety or nervousness they may feel during the biopsy. The biopsy usually takes an hour to complete. The sedative can wear off quickly or may take a few hours. Somebody should accompany the patient home after the biopsy.

Recovery

For a breast biopsy, post-operative pain is quite minimal and resolves within a few days. Patients will be prescribed medicine for the pain. Most patients can go back doing their normal activities a day after the biopsy. Sponge baths may be taken for the meantime, making sure that the stitches are kept dry to prevent any infection. The incision made for the biopsy should completely heal within a month. The stitches will dissolve or will be removed from 7 to 10 days later at the doctor’s office. Heavy lifting should be avoided for 1 to 2 weeks after the biopsy. Strenuous activity should be avoided for 2 or 3 weeks after the biopsy to prevent bleeding.

Risks

Breast biopsy is minimally invasive and risks, although low, still exist. Some risks include bruising, infections, hematoma and scarring. These risks do occur, but they do resolve after a while with the proper medical attention. Side effects of the biopsy vary with every patient.

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FAQs

Why would one opt for a breast biopsy?

Breast biopsy helps determine whether any lumps or suspicious growths in the breasts are cancerous or benign. If negative, it can give patients relief and a way to check circumstances like these in the future. If it is cancerous, it gives patients a chance to look for the proper way to treat it.

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What is an open excisional biopsy?

The open excisional biopsy is a procedure done under local anesthesia. The area is numbed with a local anesthetic and a sedative is administered upon patient’s decision. The surgeon makes a 1 to 2 inches incision as close as possible to the lump found. The surgeon removes a piece of tissue to be checked in the laboratory and then the incision is sutured. The biopsy takes about an hour to complete.

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What is a fine needle aspiration biopsy?

Fine needle aspiration biopsy or FNAB involves drawing out a few cells and/or fluid from a lump through a thin needle, a needle which is smaller than those used for blood tests. The needle is guided to the area of the breast change while the doctor is feeling or palpating the lump in question. FNAB is the least invasive type of biopsy, but in some cases, it cannot give an answer as to whether the tissue is cancerous. The doctor performing the FNAB can either be a pathologist, a radiologist or a surgeon.

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What is a core needle biopsy?

Core needle biopsy or CNB is similar to FNAB. In this biopsy, a slightly larger, hollow “core” needle with a special cutting edge is used to withdraw small cylinders or cores of tissue from the abnormal area of the breast. This type of biopsy is usually done with local anesthesia, where the patient is awake during the procedure but the breast is numb. The needle is inserted three to six times to get the samples. Compared to FNAB, CNB is more invasive and takes more time to finish, although it is more likely to give a definite result. The CNB can leave bruises, but it usually does not leave internal or external scars.

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What is a stereotactic needle biopsy?

The stereotactic needle biopsy procedure uses a computer to analyze information from mammograms. The computer basically determines exactly where in the abnormal area to place the needle tip. This procedure is often used to biopsy micro calcifications or calcium deposits.

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Is it possible for a biopsy to have false positive/false negative results?

Yes. Such results can be caused by technical problems with the biopsy equipment; not getting the correct sample; the method of biopsy done was not suitable for the lesion(s) present.

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What would my breast look like after a biopsy?

The incision from the breast biopsy leaves a small scar that fades in time. Breast appearance may change depending on the size of the lesion or the lump removed from the breast.

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