Subject Contents

Breast biopsy

A breast biopsy is a procedure that involves obtaining a sample of breast tissue and analyzing it in a laboratory for signs of cancer or other disorders.

Alternative Names
Biopsy - breast

How the test is performed
There are 2 methods used to obtain the sample. One is a needle biopsy , and the other is called an open biopsy. NEEDLE biopsy You undress to the waist and sit or recline. The injection site is cleaned and sterilized, then injected with a local anesthetic. A needle attached to a syringe is then introduced into the lesion or lump to be studied. Fluid may be removed first, then a tissue sample is obtained. The fluid is stored in a special tube, and the tissue sample is placed in a specimen bottle with preservative. Once the tissue sample has been taken, the needle is removed, and pressure is applied to the site to stop any bleeding . A bandage will be applied to absorb any fluid. OPEN biopsy This method is also called a lumpectomy . You undress to the waist and sit or recline. A local or general anesthetic is administered (depending on the size of the mass and your condition), and an incision is made to expose the lump. The entire mass may be removed if it is not too big, or part may be excised (removed) if the lump is larger. The tissue may be tested before the entire lump is removed. After the tissue sample is taken, the incision is sutured, and a dressing and bandage are applied. If general anesthesia is administered, vital signs (temperature, pulse , rate of breathing, blood pressure ) will be monitored for at least 1 hour after completion of the procedure. Pain medication may be prescribed.

How to prepare for the test
Your medical history will be taken, and a manual breast examination performed. You must sign an informed consent form. For patients requiring general anesthesia, fasting for 8 to 12 hours before the test may be recommended.

How the test will feel
There may be a sharp, stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is administered. During the procedure, you may feel slight discomfort and/or light pressure. After the test, the breast may be sore and tender to the touch for several days. Pain medication will probably be prescribed if an incision is made. Over-the-counter Pain medication should be satisfactory for most needle biopsy patients.

Why the test is performed
A biopsy is the only way to determine if tissue is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Normal Values
A normal value shows no sign of malignancy . The sample may consist of connective tissue, fat lobules, or lactiferous or milk ducts. The sample should appear pink.

What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results are indicated as follows: Tumors may be benign , and they can indicate:
  • Adenofibroma
  • Fibrocystic disease
  • Intraductal papilloma
  • Mammary fat
  • necrosis
  • Mastitis
  • Tumors may be malignant and they can include:
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Colloid
  • carcinoma
  • Cystosarcoma
  • Infiltrating carcinoma
  • Inflammatory carcinoma
  • Intraductal carcinoma
  • Lobular carcinoma
  • Medullary or circumscribed carcinoma
  • Paget's disease
  • Sarcoma
  • You should as your doctor about your specific condition and how it applies to you. Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
  • Nipple problems
    What the risks are
  • There is a slight chance of infection at the injection or incision site. Excessive
  • bleeding is rare, but may require draining or re-bandaging.

    Special considerations
    Most breast lumps consist of fatty tissue and lactiferous (milk) ducts. Tumors are usually detected during a manual examination or mammography test. Nipple discharge may indicate the presence of a malignant tumor.