Breast Needle Biopsy
(Biopsy, Breast Needle; Breast Needle Aspiration; Aspiration, Breast Needle; Fine Needle Aspiration; Aspiration, Fine Needle; Stereotactic Core Needle Biopsy; Biopsy, Stereotactic Core Needle; MRI-guided Breast Biopsy; Biopsy, MRI-guided Breast; Vacuum-assisted Device Biopsy; Biopsy, Vacuum-assisted Device; Ultrasound-directed Needle Biopsy; Biopsy, Ultrasound-directed Needle)En Español (Spanish Version)
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Breast needle biopsy is the removal of a sample of breast tissue using a needle. The sample is examined in a lab. There are different types of breast needle biopsies:
Reasons for Procedure
This is done to examine a suspicious area in the breast. It may be done if any of the following are found:
- Tissue thickening
- Nipple abnormality
- Discharge from the nipple
- Abnormal ultrasound or mammogram image
The biopsy can identify the area as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam, especially a breast exam
- Blood tests
- Mammogram and/or breast ultrasound
Leading up to the biopsy:
Talk to your doctor about your current medicines. Certain medicines may need to be stopped before the procedure, such as:
- Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs for up to one week before surgery
- Blood-thinning drugs, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)
- Shower the morning of the biopsy. You may be asked to use a special antibacterial soap.
You may receive local anesthesia. If this is the case, the area that is being operated on is numbed.
Description of the Procedure
The doctor will choose from several types of biopsies to get a tissue sample:
The skin over the area will be cleaned. A small needle will be inserted into the breast tissue. Fluid and/or tissue will be removed. The needle may be removed and re-inserted more than once. After this is done, the doctor will apply pressure to the area and cover the spot with a bandage.
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An ultrasound device is used to locate the area where the biopsy needs to be taken. An ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the breast tissue on a monitor. Once the location is found, a small needle will be inserted in the breast tissue. Samples of fluid and/or tissue will be removed. A bandage will be applied after the needle is removed.
The doctor may have you lie down on your stomach or sit depending on the equipment being used. Mammogram or ultrasound images will be taken to locate the suspicious area. The doctor will make a tiny cut in your breast and insert a special probe. Using the probe, the doctor will remove several core samples of breast tissue from the area. After this is done, the area will be covered with a bandage.
In some instances the suspicious area can only be seen using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Because of this, an MRI-guided breast biopsy may be needed. This procedure takes more time and is more labor intensive. Tell your doctor if you have a cardiac pacemaker , since this may affect the procedure.
How Long Will It Take?
It will take less than one hour. After the procedure, the tissue collected will be sent to a pathologist who will look at it under a microscope. It may about 2-5 days to receive the test results.
Will It Hurt?
There will be slight pain in your breast after the biopsy. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Take pain medicine as directed by your doctor.
- To relieve discomfort, apply a warm compress or a heating pad to the area.
- Wear a supportive bra.
- Ask your doctor when you should change the bandages.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the biopsy site
- Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicine you were given after surgery, or that persist for more than two days after the procedure
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
In case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
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Heywang-Köbrunner SH, Sinnatamby R, Lebeau A, et al. Interdisciplinary consensus on the uses and technique of MRI-guided vacuum-assisted breast biopsy (VAB): results of a European consensus meeting. Eur J Radiol . 2009;72:289.
Kinds of biopsies. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, Cancer Prevention Institute of California website. Available at: http://dcis.info/biopsy-kinds.html . Accessed May 20, 2011.
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Last reviewed June 2011 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last updated Updated: 6/6/2011
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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