A breast biopsy is the removal of breast tissue to examine it for signs of breast cancer or other disorders.
There are several different types of breast biopsies, including stereotactic, open, and lumpectomy. This article focuses on needle-based, ultrasound-guided breast biopsies.
Before the procedure, you are asked to undress from the waist up. You wear a robe that opens in the front.
You are awake during the biopsy. You lie on your back. The health care provider first cleans the area on your breast, and injects a numbing medicine.
The biopsy is done using one of the following:
Once the tissue sample has been taken, the catheter or 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 health care provider will ask questions about your medical history and perform a manual breast exam.
You must sign an informed consent form. If you are going to have general anesthesia, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 8 to 12 hours before the test.
If you take medicines (including aspirin or herbal medications), ask your doctor whether you need to stop taking these before the biopsy.
Tell your doctor if you may be pregnant before having a biopsy.
Do not apply lotion, perfume, powder, or deodorant underneath your arms or on your breasts.
When the doctor injects the numbing medicine, it may sting a bit.
During the procedure, you may feel slight discomfort or light pressure. You should not feel any pain.
After the test, the breast may be sore and tender to the touch for several days. Do not do any heavy lifting or work with your arms for 24 hours after the biopsy. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain.
Although you may have some bruising, there should be no scars left in the breast or on the skin.
An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy may be done to evaluate abnormal findings on a mammogram or breast ultrasound, or during a physical exam.
To determine whether someone has breast cancer, a biopsy must be done. Tissue and fluid from the abnormal area are removed and examined under a microscope.
A normal result means there is no sign of cancer or other breast problems.
Your doctor or nurse will let you know if and when you need a follow-up mammogram or other tests.
A biopsy can identify a number of breast conditions that are not cancer or precancer, including:
Biopsy results may show precancerous breast 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.
There is a slight chance of infection at the injection or incision site. Excessive bleeding is rare.
Reviewed By: Ken Levin, MD, private practice specializing in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Allentown, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.