What is a breast biopsy?

A biopsy is a small piece of tissue that is removed by a special needle and checked in a pathology lab. Breast Biopsies are done under local anaesthesia and that means that you will be awake, but you will not feel any pain.

Types of breast biopsies are:

  • Ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy – This method uses ultrasound images.
  • Stereotactic biopsy – With this method, a 3D image of the breast is made using a computer and mammogram results.
  • Vacuum-assisted core biopsy – A small cut is made in the breast. A hollow probe is inserted through the cut. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) – A very thin needle is placed to see if the area is a fluid-filled sac (cyst).

Why might I need a breast biopsy?

  • To check a problem seen on a mammogram, such as micro calcifications or a distortion in breast tissue.
  • To find out if a breast lump or mass is cancer (malignant) or not cancer (benign)
  • There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a breast biopsy


What are the benefits and risks?


  • The procedure is less invasive than the surgical biopsy and can be performed in less than an hour
  • Recovery time is brief and patients can soon resume their usual activities
  • Generally, the procedure is not painful
  • No breast defect remains and, unlike surgery, needle biopsy does not distort the breast tissue
  • X-rays usually have no side effects in the typical diagnostic range for this exam. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk


  • There is a risk of bleeding and forming a hematoma at the biopsy site. The risk, however, is < 1/100
  • The chance of infection requiring antibiotic treatment appears to be less than 1/ 1,000.
  • Bruising and mild pain at the biopsy site.

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