Keeping women safe, with facts, not fear

. February 4, 2013.

Breast biopsy. You have probably heard the term before, but do you know what it means? Used to detect breast cancer and other breast conditions, this procedure takes a piece of breast tissue for testing. Learning the basics about breast biopsy will help you know what to expect if a doctor recommends that you, a family member, or a friend have one.
Why a breast

A breast biopsy is recommended when a suspicious lump or mass has been found in the breast. This may be after a routine breast exam, a mammogram or an ultrasound.
It is normal for women to have lumps in their breasts. In fact, that is one of the reasons why monthly breast self-exams can be helpful. When you know the normal shape and feel of your breasts, you can spot a suspicious mass more quickly. A lump that persists, becomes larger with time or is associated with an abnormal mammogram may cause your doctor or surgeon to
recommend a biopsy.
Having a breast lump does not necessarily mean you have cancer. Changes in breast tissue are not always harmful and many breast lumps are non-cancerous. Other reasons for breast lumps include cysts in the breasts, infection or non-cancerous growths. When breast exam and X-ray studies fail to determine the cause of a lump, your doctor may recommend
a biopsy.
What happens during
a breast biopsy?

The type of breast biopsy performed depends
on several factors, including the lump’s look, size and location.
A needle biopsy is the most common form of breast biopsy and is usually effective in testing for breast cancer. During the procedure, the skin is numbed with local anesthetic and a long needle is used to collect a small amount of tissue from the breast lump. If the doctor cannot feel the lump, he or she may use an ultrasound or a mammogram as a guide to direct the needle to the lump.
Another procedure is an open biopsy. During
this procedure, an incision is made to take out some or all of the abnormal tissue. This is an outpatient procedure with a low risk of side effects. However, most women usually take a day or two off work and may experience bruising.
After the tissue is removed, a pathologist – a doctor who studies the cause and development of disease – determines if the tissue is cancerous or if more tissue is needed to make a diagnosis.

What do you need to know
about breast health?

Breast conditions can occur at any age and for a variety of reasons. Remember to do your breast
self-exam each month and tell your doctor about
any unusual lumps. If your doctor or surgeon does recommend a breast biopsy, try not to worry. The
procedure is minor. And, in most cases, breast changes are non-cancerous.