Breast biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of breast tissue containing suspicious breast growth is removed and examined in the laboratory for the presence of cancer. It is indicated when abnormal findings are seen during mammography, ultrasound or MRI scans, or unusual changes are noticed in the nipple (dimpling skin, scaling or bloody discharge) or breast tissue (thickening or lumps).
The area to be biopsied may be numbed to keep you comfortable. The procedure for conducting a breast biopsy depends on factors such as the size and location of the breast defect. The types of breast biopsy procedures include:
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: Your doctor inserts a thin needle into the lump detected during a breast examination to draw a sample of fluid or cells.
- Core needle biopsy: Your doctor inserts a needle guided by ultrasound or MRI to remove a sample of breast lump detected during a breast examination, ultrasound or mammogram. Several, grain-sized samples of the tissue are removed.
- Stereotactic biopsy: A mammogram is used to identify the location of the suspicious areas within the breast. Your doctor makes a small incision and removes several samples of tissue through a needle or vacuum-powered probe.
- Surgical biopsy: Your doctor surgically removes a part or entire breast lump under intravenous or local anaesthesia.
The collected tissue is then forwarded to the pathologist for microscopic analysis. The pathology report will tell if the lump is benign or cancerous. Based on the results, your doctor will discuss a suitable treatment plan to treat and manage your diagnosis.