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What happens during a breast cancer biopsy?

During a biopsy, your doctor removes cells from the breast and a pathologist inspects the cells under a microscope to see if they are cancerous. Some common biopsies used to help doctors make a breast cancer diagnosis include the following: fine needle aspiration biopsy, which uses a small needle; core needle biopsy, which uses a larger needle; or surgical biopsy, in which all or part of a lump is removed and checked for cancer. Here are two other types of biopsy:
  • Sentinell lymph node biopsy: Your doctor may first perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph glands under the arm. First, a radioactive substance and/or a dye is injected near the tumor site. Then, the first lymph nodes that pick up the dye are removed and reviewed by a pathologist to check for the presence of cancer cells.
  • MRI-guided breast biopsy: A minimally invasive, image-guided procedure in which specially trained radiologists use MRI technology and targeting software to precisely locate and remove cells from a suspicious area in the breast for diagnosis and treatment planning.

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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.