When it comes to biopsies, the process is uniquely personal. The decision is made by you and your health care provider together, and is based on the unique situation at hand.
When considering a breast biopsy, samples can be obtained by either surgery or a needle. The technique depends upon such things as the nature and location of the lump and the patient's general health.
Biopsy procedures include wire localization, core needle biopsy and excisional – or open – biopsy.
Types of Biopsy
In order for a surgeon to surgically remove suspicious tissue from the breast, a guide will be needed to show the exact location of the abnormality. The wire localization procedure precisely pinpoints the abnormality, thereby increasing the surgeon's ability to remove all of the abnormal tissue, while reducing the removal of healthy tissue.
The radiologist will numb the outer skin and deeper tissue within your breast with a small needle. The injection of the anesthetic may sting for a few seconds. Once the anesthetic takes effect, you usually will not feel any pain during the placement of the needle.
Then, under ultrasound or mammographic guidance, a wire will be inserted into your breast by the radiologist to mark the exact position of the abnormality. This thin wire is left in place as a guide for your surgeon. The procedure takes approximately one hour.
Core needle biopsy
In a core needle biopsy, the radiologist makes a tiny cut in the skin of the breast and inserts a small needle to get tissue samples. Usually, four to six samples are taken through that one cut.
Most people report little discomfort following a core needle biopsy.
The procedure takes about an hour and patients usually receive their results within one to three business days.
If the core biopsy shows that cancer cells are present, removal of the area and a possible sentinel node biopsy will follow.
During an excisional – or open – biopsy, a general surgeon will attempt to completely remove the affected tissue, along with a surrounding margin of normal breast tissue, while the patient is under general anesthesia.
A picture is taken of the tissue that is removed and compared to the prior image of the breast to ensure the entire affected area is removed. The suspicious tissue is sent to a pathologist to identify whether the tissue is cancerous or non-cancerous.
After the procedure
Following an excisional biopsy, avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for 72 hours.
You may experience some discomfort and notice some bruising in the area where the biopsy was performed. This is a normal part of the healing process and normally disappears within five to seven days.
The results of the biopsy will be available within one to three days. Your physician will review the pathology report and discuss the findings with you.
What if something is abnormal?
If the abnormality is cancerous, the cancerous tissue will need to be removed.
There are several treatment options which are individualized to each situation.
Your surgeon will discuss each option with you prior to proceeding with surgery.