What is Breast Biopsy?
Written by Kimberly Vaughn, MD   
Monday, 05 October 2009

A breast biopsy involves taking a piece of tissue and/or fluid from the breast.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?

A breast biopsy is often done when breast lumps are found. Women with an abnormal mammogram are also advised to have a biopsy. Other unexplained breast problems may need a biopsy to determine the cause.
Most biopsies are done to make sure breast cancer is not present.
How is the procedure performed?

Tissue samples for a breast biopsy may be obtained with the following procedures:
- Fine needle aspiration. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area. The provider uses a thin needle to obtain fluid and cells from the lump.
- Needle biopsy. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area. If the lump is seen only on mammogram, a needle is guided under X-ray to take a sample.
- Incisional biopsy. The woman is generally put to sleep with general anesthesia. A surgeon removes a sample of the lump or suspicious tissue.
- Excisional biopsy. The woman is generally put to sleep with general anesthesia. The surgeon removes all of the lump or suspicious tissue, as well as a surrounding area of healthy tissue.

The fluid and tissue will be carefully studied to determine first if it is cancer. If it is, the tissue then will be tested to see how aggressive the cancer is.