Breast biopsy is a simple procedure to determine whether the lumps in your breast are cancerous or not. Although most breast lumps are non-cancerous, if the doctor also has enough reason to suspect any cancerous growth, a breast biopsy will be performed.
In breast biopsy, a sample of the breast tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to identify and diagnose any abnormalities in the cells. The quicker a tumour is detected, the sooner can the treatment begin, impacting your overall health and longevity.
Although 99% of the breast cancer occur in women, men are also susceptible to breast cancer. Men with a genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome have the same risk of developing cancer as that of women. Therefore, it is equally important for men to be aware and get themselves checked.
There are different biopsy procedures and the method most appropriate for you will depend on the following factors such as:
- The size of the lump or suspicious area in your breast
- Location of the lump
- If there is more than one suspicious area
- Your medical history or current situation
- Your personal preference.
Non-cancerous lumps may also occur in the breast which can be treated with medication or removed by surgery. These are:
- Adenofibroma – benign tumour of the breast tissue
- Fibrocystic Breast Disease – painful lumps cause by hormonal changes
- Intraductal Papilloma – small, benign tumour of the milk ducts
- Mammary fat Necrosis – a lump formed by bruised, dead or injured fat tissue.
Types of Breast Biopsies
- Fine needle biopsy
- Core needle biopsy
- Ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy
- MRI-guided core needle biopsy
- Surgical procedure
Indications of Breast Biopsy
- If your doctor has a reason to be concerned with the results from a mammogram or breast ultrasound
- If a lump was found during physical examination
- If there are changes in your nipples like –
- Dimpling skin
- Bloody discharge
Diagnosis and Tests
- Physical examination of the breasts
- MRI Scan
- Complete physical examination of your breasts by the doctor
- Diagnostic tests to be done
- Inform you doctor of all your medical history including current medications taken, allergies, if any
- Your doctor will inform the best options available for you
- You may be asked to stop taking certain medicines like blood thinners, herbal supplements etc
- Inform your doctor if you cannot lie on your back for a long time
- Inform your doctor if you have any electronic devices in your body like a pacemaker
- Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or concerned you may be pregnant
- Wearing a bra is helpful especially after the biopsy as you will be given a cold pack
- During the biopsy, the surgeon may place a tiny stainless-steel marker or clip in your breast on the biopsy site. This is done so that the surgeon may know which area the tumour is located to remove it surgically afterwards.
- Local anaesthesia will be injected so that you would not feel any pain as it will be numbed.
- Depending on your circumstance, one of the following will be carried out:
- Fine Needle Biopsy – as you lie on the table, the surgeon extracts a sample by inserting a small needle and syringe into the lump. It is a quick way to determine a fluid filled cyst and solid mass.
- Core Needle Biopsy – to assess a breast lump that is visible during a mammogram or ultrasound, or physical examination, the surgeon may remove samples each the size of a rice grain through a thin, hollow needle. An ultrasound may be used to know from which location the samples should be collected from.
- Stereotactic Biopsy – in this procedure, you lie face down with your breasts positioned in a hole in the table. The surgeon or radiologist will work with a mammogram to locate the suspicious areas. A needle or vacuum powered probe is inserted to collect samples. This can also be done by sitting down.
- Ultrasound-Guided Core Needle Biopsy – to determine the precise image structures within your body, the radiologist uses an ultrasound device against your breasts to locate the mass. A small incision is made to insert the needle and collect the samples. You may lie on your back or side on an ultrasound table during this time.
- MRI-Guided Core Needle Biopsy – using an MRI, multiple cross-sectional images of your breasts are taken, and 3D pictures are generated to help determine the exact location for the biopsy. After a small incision, a core needle is inserted to retrieve samples for laboratory testing. You may lie face down with breasts adjusted to the hollow table.
- Surgical Procedure – with local anaesthetic, the surgeon may remove a portion or entire breast mass for laboratory examination. The tissues are examined to detect breast cancer and if so, the edges of the mass are examined to check if the entire lump is removed or not. If cancer cells are found on the edges, a re-surgery is scheduled. If the edges are clear, then the cancer has been removed adequately. A metal marker may be left in the breast to monitor the area in the future.
- Some biopsy takes 30 minutes to an hour, so you may be able to go home after awhile
- Your breast will be covered in some bandages and a cold pack be given to prevent pain and inflammation
- You should rest after the procedure and can resume normal activities within a day
- Bruising is common and if the pain is unbearable, you may take a non-aspirin pain reliever suggested by your doctor
- If a surgical biopsy is done, some stitches will need to be taken care of and normal activities can be resumed the next day
- Test results will come after some days and if cancer cells are found, results will inform the kind and your doctor will suggest surgical treatment
- It may be noted that non-cancerous can be found in the breast as well.
Risks and Complications
As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks involved. Most of the side effects are treatable and temporary. Complications are rare. Some possible side effects to breast biopsy are:
- Depending on the size of the tumour removed, the appearance of your breast is altered
- Infection of the biopsy site
- Swelling of the breast
- Bruising of the breast
- Soreness at the site of injection
Factors Affecting the Cost of Breast Biopsy
The cost of breast biopsy starts from US $500. However, price may vary depending on factors like:
- Location of the hospital
- Choice of hospital
- Cost of diagnostic tests
- Surgeon’s fee
- Medical treatment