You have just had your mammogram and then an ultrasound. Now the radiologist wants to do a biopsy. What does this mean?

A biopsy is a medical procedure, performed under local anesthesia, that removes a sample of cells or tissue from the breast to be tested. The cells or tissue are then examined at a lab for signs of cancer. Because of the anesthetic that is being used, the biopsy is usually not painful.

There are 2 types of biopsies: They are needle biopsy and surgical biopsy.

Because the needle biopsy is the simplest biopsy, this method may be done first. There are 3 methods of needle biopsy. The first is called Core Needle Biopsy. A thin needle is used to remove a small amount of tissue. The skin is slightly nicked with a scalpel, the needle is entered in that area and the tissue is removed. This biopsy can be done on areas that can actually be felt or seen on a mammogram or Breast MRI.

The Fine Needle Aspiration uses a thinner needle to remove a few cells from the breast lump. These cells will then be examined under a microscope and a determination of what the cells are can be made.

Vacuum assisted biopsy uses a thicker, hollow needle to remove cores of tissue by inserting a vacuum assisted probe. This technique allows the physician to remove more tissue through a single incision than is possible with a core biopsy. It is also much less invasive than a surgical biopsy.

The advantages of the needle biopsies are that it is a simple procedure, accurate, it uses local anesthetic and results are available quickly. It also avoids surgery if the findings are non-cancerous.

The disadvantages are that it does not remove the entire lump and a surgical biopsy may be needed as well, depending on the results.

The Surgical Biopsy, or open surgical biopsy is a surgical procedure that removes that abnormality from the breast. Most of the time, this procedure is done in a hospital. The entire lump is removed plus some surrounding tissue. The advantages of a surgical biopsy include more information if a treatment plan is needed, the entire lump is removed and it may be the only surgery needed. The disadvantages are it’s a surgical procedure, there could possible side effects such as an infection or scarring and removing tissue can change the look and feel of the breast.

For more information, please call Diagnostic Imaging Associates at (716) 636-1902

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