Procedure, Results and Complications of Breast Biopsy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

You must have heard about the dreaded breast lump. It is one of the most easily detectable signs of the possibility of cancerous cells in the breast. When such a bump is discovered, it is essential to consult your doctor, who will then order a breast biopsy.

What Is a Breast Biopsy

A breast biopsy is a diagnostic procedure in which abnormal growth in the breast is extracted (either a small part or the entire growth can be removed) and examined. The breast lump biopsy determines whether the growth is malignant or benign. If the growth is cancerous, the test sheds light on the extent and severity of the cancer, and allows doctors to chart further treatment.

The Various Aspects of a Breast Biopsy

A breast tissue biopsy can be performed by needle biopsy or open biopsy. The former is a minimally invasive method that involves inserting a needle into the breast and extracting the needed sample. The latter involves surgically removing the entire growth.

Sometimes the growth isn't clearly visible and doctors will need a more detailed look before proceeding. In such a case a mammotome breast biopsy is ordered. A mammogram is a breast x-ray that highlights the abnormal growth in the breast on an x-ray image. The procedure itself can be uncomfortable as the breast is placed between two metal plates and pressure is applied.

If the images throw up certain abnormalities, a stereotactic breast biopsy may be ordered. A stereotactic biopsy test is taken by a specialized ionizing radiation machine. This machine guides the biopsy instruments during the procedure.

However, in case of women under 35, the x-ray may not reveal much (due to the solid mass of the breast). For women in this age group, doctors are more likely to order an ultrasound breast biopsy for a detailed look. This is a painless and quick procedure. These tests are especially useful as they allow the doctor to see if the lump is solid or is a cyst.


Once the x-ray has been taken, the patient will either be prepared for a needle biopsy or an open biopsy. In a needle biopsy the patient will be positioned on the examination table. A local anesthetic will be administered around the breast. A biopsy needle is then inserted into the breast and the growth sample is extracted. This sample is then sent to the lab for testing. In an open biopsy the patient is given general anesthesia and a surgeon extracts the growth and surrounding tissues. The extracted matter is then sent for sampling. The test results are generally available within 48 hours of the biopsy procedure.