Having a Breast Biopsy?

Biopsies may involve needles (pictured) or open incisions.
Biopsies are the most conclusive test for telling whether you have cancer, and if so, what type. A doctor administers local or general anesthesia and then removes a sample of the suspicious lump, whether it's a few cells, some tissue, or the entire lump. Pathologists examine the sample.

There are a few different kinds of biopsies used to help diagnose breast cancer: fine needle, core needle, stereotactic, and excisional.

Because biopsies are usually—though not always—the last step in your diagnosis, both the procedure itself and getting your results can be very stressful, but keep in mind that 80% of biopsy results come back benign. "The whole process is nerve-racking—it's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait and anxiety-provoking things," says Mehra Golshan, MD, a breast surgical oncologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "What happens is that something abnormal is seen and you have to hurry up and schedule a biopsy. It's angst-provoking. Some women will need a small sedative before the procedure. Coming in with a friend or significant other usually helps a lot."

12 Next
Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Last Updated: April 24, 2008

Stay fit, feel younger, and get special offers and insider health news—from beauty to breast cancer—just for women.

More Ways to Connect with Health