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A biopsy is a procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope. A breast biopsy is a procedure in which samples of breast tissue are removed with a special biopsy needle or during surgery to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.
Biopsies may be performed under local or general anesthesia. There are several types of breast biopsy procedures. The type of biopsy performed will depend upon the location and size of the breast lump or abnormality.
Types of breast biopsy procedures include, but are not limited to, the following:
There are special instruments and techniques that may be used to guide the needles and to assist with biopsy procedures. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Other breast biopsy techniques are being studied, including ductal lavage. In this procedure, a small catheter is inserted through the nipple into a milk duct in the breast. Saline (salt-water solution) is gently flushed through the catheter into the duct. The saline is then withdrawn back through the catheter, collecting ductal cells in the fluid. The cells are examined in the lab to check for cancer or precancerous changes. This procedure is still considered investigational, but it may be used in clinical trials.
Other related procedures used to evaluate and treat breast problems include mammogram, breast ultrasound, breast scan, lumpectomy, and mastectomy. Please see these procedures for additional information.
Each breast has 15 to 20 sections, called lobes, that are arranged like the petals of a daisy. Each lobe has many smaller lobules, which end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk.
The lobes, lobules, and bulbs are all linked by thin tubes called ducts. These ducts lead to the nipple in the center of a dark area of skin called the areola. Fat fills the spaces between lobules and ducts.
There are no muscles in the breast, but muscles lie under each breast and cover the ribs.
Each breast also contains blood vessels and vessels that carry lymph. The lymph vessels lead to small bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes, clusters of which are found under the arm, above the collarbone, and in the chest, as well as in many other parts of the body.
Breast biopsies may be performed:
It is important to remember that a lump or other changes in the breast, or an abnormal area on a mammogram, may be caused by cancer or, more commonly, by other less serious problems.
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a breast biopsy.
As with any surgical procedure, complications may occur. Some possible complications of a breast biopsy may include, but are not limited to, the following:
Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, iodine, or latex should notify their physician.
If you are pregnant, or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician.
If the biopsy is performed using an x-ray, the amount of radiation used during the procedure is considered minimal; therefore, the risk for radiation exposure is very low.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
A breast biopsy may be performed in a physician’s office, on an outpatient basis, or as part of your hospital stay. Some biopsy procedures only require local anesthesia, while others require general anesthesia. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician’s practices.
Generally, a needle breast biopsy will follow this process:
Generally, an open breast biopsy will follow this process:
The recovery process will vary depending upon the type of biopsy performed and if anesthesia was administered.
If you received general anesthesia, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home. If this procedure was performed on an outpatient basis, you should plan to have another person drive you home.
If you received local anesthesia, you will be discharged to your home after you have completed the recovery period.
Keep the biopsy area clean and dry if there are sutures. If sutures are used, they will be removed during a follow-up office visit. If there are no sutures, you may remove the bandage/dressing when instructed to do so, and bathe as usual.
The biopsy site may be tender or sore for several days after the breast biopsy. Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your physician. Aspirin or certain other pain medications may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medications. Wearing a supportive bra may help with discomfort.
You may resume your normal diet unless your physician advises you differently. Your physician may ask you to avoid strenuous physical activity for a few days.
Notify your physician to report any of the following:
Your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
This page contains links to other Web sites with information about this procedure and related health conditions. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these Web sites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.