How is a breast biopsy performed?

A breast biopsy is a procedure in which your doctor will numb the skin over an area of your breast where there is a lump or abnormal finding on a mammogram or ultrasound. He or she will make a small cut and pass a needle into the breast tissue to obtain a sample of tissue to test. A breast biopsy can be performed using special x-ray machines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or with an ultrasound. These are used to obtain images to ensure the concerning area is biopsied.

A doctor can usually perform a needle biopsy in the office. A local anesthetic is injected into the breast, and light suction is applied through a hollow needle inserted into the lump to remove a sample of tissue or aspirate fluid. Disappearance of the lump after fluid is withdrawn usually indicates a benign cyst. Nevertheless, the fluid may be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

If no abnormal cells are found, no further tests are required. In some cases, a surgical excision may be necessary. This procedure entails removal of the lump and small amounts of surrounding tissues for laboratory analysis. A surgical biopsy usually is done in a hospital (often as out-patient surgery) using either local or general anesthesia. About 80 percent of biopsies show no cancerous cells.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.