Breast Biopsy

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 biopsies procedures. The type of biopsy performed will depend upon the location and size of the breast lump or abnormality.

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:

Biopsy Procedures

  • Stereotactic biopsy – stereotactic biopsy finds the exact location of a breast lump or suspicious area by using a computer and mammogram results to create a three-dimensional (3D) picture of the breast. A sample of tissue is removed with a needle.
  • Ultrasound-guided biopsy – a technique that uses a computer and a transducer that sends out ultrasonic sounds waves to create images of the breast lump or mass. This technique helps to guide the needle biopsy.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy – a very thin needle is placed into the lump or suspicious area to remove a small sample of fluid and/or tissue. No incision is necessary. This type of biopsy may be performed to help to differentiate a cyst from a lump.
  • Core needle biopsy – a large needle is guided into a lump or suspicious area to remove a small cylinder of tissue (also called a core).
  • In some cases, if the breast lump is very small and deep and is difficult to locate, the wire localization technique may be used during surgery. With this technique, a special wire is placed into the lump under x-ray guidance. The surgeon follows this wire to help locate the breast lump.