How It Is Done
Before the biopsy
You will take off your clothing above the waist. A paper or cloth gown will cover your shoulders. The biopsy will be done while you sit or lie on an examination table. Your hands may be at your sides or raised above your head. (It depends on which position makes it easiest to find the lump.) Or you may lie on your stomach on a special table that has a hole for your breast to hang through. A mammogram, an ultrasound, or an MRI may be used to find the exact site for the biopsy.
Fine needle breast biopsy
Your doctor numbs your skin with a shot of numbing medicine where the biopsy needle will be inserted. When the area is numb, a needle is put through your skin into your breast tissue to take a sample. The needle is then removed. Pressure is put on the needle site to stop any bleeding. A bandage is put on.
Ultrasound may be used to guide the placement of the needle during the biopsy.
The biopsy sample is sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope.
Core needle biopsy
Your doctor numbs your skin with a shot of numbing medicine where the biopsy needle will be inserted. When the area is numb, a small cut is made in your skin. A needle with a special tip is put into the breast tissue. The doctor takes some samples and usually inserts a clip to mark the biopsy site.
Pressure is put on the needle site to stop any bleeding. A bandage is put on.
Most core needle biopsies are done using imaging to find the exact area in the breast to sample. Types of image-guided core needle biopsies include:
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy. An ultrasound probe guides placement of the needle or vacuum device.
- Stereotactic-guided biopsy. X-ray images guide placement of the needle.
- Tomosynthesis-guided biopsy. Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) uses 3D X-ray images to guide placement of the needle.
- MRI-guided biopsy. A contrast agent may be used to see the abnormal area. MRI is used to guide the biopsy.
A core needle biopsy may also be done using a probe with a gentle vacuum to remove the samples.
The biopsy may be done in a surgery clinic or the hospital.
Anesthesia will be used to keep you comfortable during your biopsy. You may have a local anesthesia, sedation, general anesthesia, or a combination of these. Depending on what kind of anesthesia you have, you may be asleep for your biopsy.
And then, after you are numb or asleep, your doctor makes a cut through the skin to remove part or all of the abnormal tissue. If a small wire was placed to mark the biopsy site, your doctor will take tissue from that area.
Stitches are used to close the skin, and a bandage is put on.
How long the test takes
- A fine needle breast biopsy takes about 5 to 15 minutes.
- A core needle biopsy may take 15 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on how the procedure is done.
- An open biopsy takes about 60 minutes.