to view an animated version of this procedure.
is the removal of a sample of breast tissue using a needle. The sample is examined under a microscope.
There are different types of breast needle biopsies:
Reasons for Procedure
Breast needle biopsy 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
The biopsy can identify the area as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Poor nutrition
Chronic disease such as
- Bleeding disorders
What to Expect
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam, especially a breast exam
- Blood tests
and/or breast ultrasound
Leading up to the biopsy:
- Talk to your doctor about your current medications. Certain medication may need to be stopped before the procedure.
- 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 will be numbed.
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 one time. 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. After 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
MRI scan. Because of this, an MRI-guided breast biopsy may be needed. This procedure takes more time. Tell your doctor if you have a cardiac pacemaker. It may affect the procedure.
The doctor will insert a needle and use pressure from a vacuum to pull tissue from the mass through the needle. The tissue is then placed into a sampling chamber. This method lets the doctor collect multiple tissue samples during one needle insertion.
It will take less than 1 hour. After the procedure, the tissue collected will be sent to a pathologist who will look at it under a microscope. It may take about 2-5 days to receive the test results.
There will be slight pain in your breast after the biopsy. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication.
Home care will include using medications or taking self-care measures to reduce discomfort. The care staff will give instructions on how to change any bandages. Doing this will help reduce the chance of infection.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the biopsy site
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Biopsy. Breast Cancer website. Available at:
http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/biopsy. Updated October 7, 2015. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Breast biopsy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-biopsy.html. Updated October 9, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women. Updated January 23, 2018. Accessed January 29, 2018.
General information about breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq. Updated November 2, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Han BK, Schnall MD, Orel SG, Rosen M. Outcome of MRI-guided breast biopsy.
AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2008;191(6):1798-1804.
Heywang-Köbrunner SH, Sinnatamby R, 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(2):289-294.
Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=breastbius. Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
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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