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Breast Biopsy and Pre-Biopsy Procedures

A breast biopsy is procedure to remove a small sample of breast tissue for laboratory testing. Breast biopsy is considered the best way to evaluate a suspicious area in your breast to determine if it is breast cancer. There are several types of breast biopsy procedures.

There are several ways to do a breast biopsy. The sample of breast tissue will be looked at under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Your doctor inserts a thin needle into a lump and removes a sample of cells or fluid.
  • Core needle biopsy. Your doctor inserts a needle with a special tip and removes a sample of breast tissue about the size of a grain of rice.
  • Vacuum-assisted core biopsy. This is done with a probe that uses a gentle vacuum to remove a small sample of breast tissue. The single small cut doesn't require stitches and leaves a very small scar.
  • Open (surgical) biopsy. Your doctor will make a small cut in the skin and breast tissue to remove part or all of a lump. This may be done as a first step to check a lump or if a needle biopsy doesn't provide enough information.

If needed, your doctor may use ultrasound or MRI to guide the biopsy needle. Or your doctor may use a computer to locate the exact spot for the biopsy sample from mammograms that have been taken from two angles. A fine wire, clip, or marker also may be used to mark the site.