A breast biopsy is the removal of breast tissue to examine it for signs of breast cancer or other disorders.
There are several types of breast biopsies, including stereotactic, ultrasound-guided, MRI-guided, and excisional breast biopsy. This article focuses on needle-based, ultrasound-guided breast biopsies.
You are asked to undress from the waist up. You wear a robe that opens in the front. During the biopsy, you are awake.
You lie on your back.
The biopsy is done in the following way:
The biopsy is done using one of the following:
Once the tissue sample has been taken, the needle is removed. Ice and pressure are applied to the site to stop any bleeding. A bandage is applied to absorb any fluid. You do not need any stitches after the needle is taken out. If needed, strips of tape may be placed to close the wound.
The provider will ask about your medical history and perform a manual breast exam.
If you take blood thinning medicines (including aspirin, supplements, or herbs), ask your doctor whether you need to stop taking these before the biopsy.
Tell your doctor if you may be pregnant.
DO NOT use lotion, perfume, powder, or deodorant underneath your arms or on your breasts.
When the numbing medicine is injected, it may sting a bit.
During the procedure, you may feel slight discomfort or light pressure.
After the test, the breast may be sore and tender to the touch for several days. You will be given instructions about what activities you can do, how to take care of your breast, and what medicines you can take for pain.
You may have some bruising, and there will be a very small scar where the needle was inserted.
An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy may be done to evaluate abnormal findings on a mammogram, breast ultrasound, or MRI.
To determine whether someone has breast cancer, a biopsy must be done. Tissue from the abnormal area is removed and examined under a microscope.
A normal result means there is no sign of cancer or other breast problems.
Your provider will let you know if and when you need a follow-up ultrasound, mammogram or other tests.
A biopsy can identify a number of breast conditions that are not cancer or precancer, including:
Biopsy results may show conditions such as:
Abnormal results may mean that you have breast cancer. Two main types of breast cancer may be found:
Depending on the biopsy results, you may need further surgery or treatment.
Your provider will discuss the meaning of the biopsy results with you.
There is a slight chance of infection at the injection or incision site. Excessive bleeding is rare.
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.