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Breast Biopsy

Overview

A biopsy is a method of extracting some cells or tissues from your body for examination. If you notice a lump , a bulging mass, or swelling in your breast, in order to confirm the nature of the lump especially if it is benign or malignant , you need to have a biopsy of the breast.

About Breast Biopsy

A breast biopsy is a procedure of removing a small piece of tissue from the breast. The pathologist evaluates the suspicious area of the breast in a laboratory under a microscope. The doctor uses this procedure to study the cells causing breast lumps.

Who Qualifies for Breast Biopsy?

You must inform your doctor about your medical history and present conditions before undergoing a breast biopsy. In particular, you need to inform your doctor:

  1. If you suffer from any allergic reactions
  2. If you have consumed aspirin in the past few days as a pain-reliever
  3. If you are taking anticoagulants (blood-thinning medicines)
  4. If you cannot lie on your stomach for a long time
  5. If you have a pacemaker or any electronic device implanted in your body, you cannot undergo MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  6. If you are pregnant or think that you might be pregnant

Why is Breast Biopsy Conducted?

There are various signs associated with breast tumours that need a breast biopsy. 

  1. If the doctor finds some alterations in the breast during an examination, mammogram, or ultrasound
  2. If you feel a lump, thickening, or swollen mass in your breast
  3. If you notice masses filled with fluids or cysts in your breast
  4. If you observe changes in the nipples or blood discharge
  5. If the skin of the breast displays crusting, scaling, or dimpling

Different Types of Breast Biopsy

There are different types of breast biopsies depending on the change in the breast and  the extent of the change. Different types of breast biopsies are:

  1. Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy: In fine needle aspiration biopsy, a very thin and hollow needle is used. This needle is attached to the syringe to draw fluid and breast tissue from the suspicious area. This method helps differentiate between a fluid-filled cyst and solid mass. 
  2. Core Needle Biopsy: A core needle biopsy is the  most preferred form of biopsy if the doctor suspects breast cancer. In core biopsy, the doctor uses a larger needle to extract a sample and study the breast changes observed on the mammogram or MRI. 
  3. Ultrasound-guided Core Needle Biopsy: Ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy is a type of core needle biopsy that uses ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) as an imaging tool to produce an image of your breast. The ultrasound guides the doctor on the location of the lumps, and this is followed by the insertion of a needle to collect the sample. 
  4. Stereotactic Biopsy: In this method, a mammogram is used to detect the mass in your breast. A small incision is made in your breast from where a needle or vacuum probe is inserted to remove the breast tissue.
  5. Surgical Biopsy: In a surgical biopsy, the surgeon removes the entire abnormal mass and a margin surrounding the normal breast tissue. In this , either a part of breast tissue is removed (incisional biopsy) or the entire breast tissue is removed (excisional biopsy or lumpectomy). 
  6. Lymph Node Biopsy: A lymph node biopsy is performed along with a breast biopsy or after removing the breast cancer. 
  7. Vacuum-assisted Breast Biopsy: In this method, a suction device is used instead of a needle to collect the fluid and cells from the breast tissue.

After Breast Biopsy

A breast biopsy leads to bruising, pain, swelling at the biopsy site, so you must carry an ice pack with you to get some relief. The doctor can suggest pain-relieving drugs to ease the pain. In a surgical biopsy, you will have sutures, so you must take care of yourself. You must wear a special bra or dressing after a breast biopsy to reduce the discomfort in your breasts for a few days.

Benefits

A breast biopsy is the best way to diagnose abnormalities in the breast tissue. If the procedure is performed on time, you can be treated in the earlier stages of breast cancer. In case it is a benign tumour, the doctor can suggest treatments for the same.

Risks or Complications Associated with Breast Biopsy

Even though breast biopsy is an effective and safe procedure,  there are some risks associated with breast biopsy:

  1. Mild pain in the breast
  2. Swelling and bruising of the breast
  3. Bleeding
  4. Fever or chills
  5. Infection at the biopsy site
  6. Change in appearance of the breast 

Conclusion

Pathologists may take several days to give you the report. f the reports suggest cancerous tissue, the doctor will guide you on the next step for its treatment. A breast biopsy is one of the safest ways to detect breast cancer. If you suspect breast cancer, you must visit your doctor and undergo a breast biopsy according to your doctor’s recommendation. Seeking treatment before the disease spreads further in the body is essential. 

For more details about breast biopsy:

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Is the breast biopsy procedure painful?

You will remain awake during a breast biopsy, so the procedure might be a little uncomfortable. Women with dense breast tissue or abnormalities near the chest walls are sensitive to the procedure.

After how long will I recover from a breast biopsy?

Bruising in the breasts will disappear after 2 weeks and the swelling in the breasts go away after 3-6 months.

What should I not do after undergoing a breast biopsy?

After a breast biopsy, you must not lift heavy objects, avoid strenuous exercise, and shower only after 24 hours after the biopsy.

Can I drive after a breast biopsy?

After a breast biopsy, it is advisable not to drive since you might still be under the effect of sedatives or anaesthesia.

What is the difference between ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy and stereotactic-guided core needle biopsy?

In an ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy, the doctor uses ultrasound to direct the needle while the patient lies down. Meanwhile, in stereotactic-guided core needle biopsy, the doctor uses an X-ray to guide the needle in the breast tissue.

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