A breast biopsy is a procedure in which samples of breast tissue are taken and examined for the presence of abnormal cells. It is most commonly used to diagnose breast cancer, but can also be used to investigate other breast health concerns.

During a breast biopsy, a small area of breast tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. The procedure can be performed using various methods, depending on the area of concern and the specific needs of the patient. Some biopsies remove the tissue through a small incision, while others use a needle to extract cells or fluid.

There are several reasons why someone might need a breast biopsy. It can be recommended if there are abnormalities found on a mammogram or ultrasound, or if there are lumps or other changes in the breast. It can also be performed if a person has a personal or family history of breast cancer, or if they have certain risk factors.

Overall, a breast biopsy is an important tool in diagnosing and monitoring breast health. It allows doctors to closely examine breast tissue and detect any abnormal cells that may be present. This information can then be used to determine the best course of treatment and management for the patient.

What is it used for

A breast biopsy is a procedure commonly used to diagnose breast cancer. It involves the removal of a small sample of breast tissue or cells for further examination by a pathologist. This procedure is typically performed when an area of concern is detected during a mammogram, ultrasound, or clinical breast examination.

There are several uses of breast biopsy:

Even with health insurance, patients in the U. S. have a hard time affording their medical care. About one in five working-age Americans with health insurance, and more than half of those without health insurance, reported having trouble paying their medical bills in the last year, according to S. News & World Report.

Type Purpose
Diagnostic biopsy To determine if a breast abnormality is cancerous or benign.
Screening biopsy To evaluate suspicious findings in women without any symptoms.
Image-guided biopsy To assess areas that cannot be felt during a physical examination, such as microcalcifications detected on a mammogram.
Stereotactic biopsy To precisely locate and sample breast abnormalities using X-ray guidance.
Ultrasound-guided biopsy To target breast lesions seen on ultrasound for biopsy.
Core needle biopsy To obtain larger samples of breast tissue for further analysis.
Vacuum-assisted biopsy To remove multiple tissue samples with one insertion of a vacuum probe.
Wire localization biopsy To guide the surgeon in removing a non-palpable breast abnormality with the help of a wire placed in the breast.
Excisional biopsy To remove a small lump or an entire suspicious area for examination.
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In addition to diagnosing breast cancer, a breast biopsy can also be performed for other health reasons, such as monitoring changes in breast tissue over time, assessing the effects of treatment, or evaluating non-cancerous breast conditions.

It’s worth mentioning that breast biopsy is not only limited to women. It can also be performed on men and transgender individuals who have breast abnormalities or symptoms of concern.

Why do I need a breast biopsy

A breast biopsy is a diagnostic procedure that uses a sample of breast cells to determine if they are cancerous or not. There are several reasons why you may need a breast biopsy:

1. Suspicious mammogram or ultrasound results: If a mammogram or ultrasound detects an abnormality in your breast, a biopsy may be necessary to further evaluate the area and determine if it is cancerous.

2. Breast lump or thickening: If you or your healthcare provider feel a lump or thickening in your breast, a biopsy may be performed to determine its cause and whether it is benign or malignant.

3. Changes in breast appearance: If you notice changes in the size, shape, or color of your breast, it may be necessary to perform a biopsy to rule out any underlying health conditions.

4. Nipple discharge: If you experience nipple discharge that is bloody, clear, or sticky, a biopsy may be needed to determine the cause and whether it is related to breast cancer.

5. Personal or family history of breast cancer: If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, your healthcare provider may recommend a biopsy as a precautionary measure to detect any potential cancerous cells early.

6. Transgender individuals: Transgender individuals who are taking hormone therapy may be at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. In such cases, a breast biopsy may be recommended to monitor any changes in breast tissue.

Overall, a breast biopsy is a crucial procedure that helps in the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. Depending on the results, further treatment options can be discussed with your healthcare provider.

What happens during a breast biopsy

During a breast biopsy, you’ll undergo a procedure to remove samples of breast tissue for examination. This is typically done to evaluate a suspicious lump or abnormality detected during a mammogram or clinical breast exam.


Prior to the procedure, your healthcare provider will explain the biopsy process and answer any questions or concerns you may have. It is important to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking, as well as any allergies or health conditions you have, as this information can influence the procedure.

The procedure

A healthcare provider will perform the breast biopsy in a medical facility. The procedure will involve the following steps:

  1. You will be asked to undress from the waist up and wear a gown.
  2. You will lie down on an examination table, with one arm raised above your head.
  3. The healthcare provider will use imaging techniques, such as ultrasound or mammography, to locate the abnormal area in your breast.
  4. The area will be cleaned and numbed with a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort.
  5. A small incision will be made, or a needle will be inserted, to remove tissue samples from the breast. The type of biopsy performed may vary based on the specific situation and guidance from your healthcare provider.
  6. The healthcare provider may place a tiny marker or clip at the biopsy site to help locate it in the future, if necessary.
  7. If multiple samples are needed, the healthcare provider will repeat the process using different locations.
  8. After the samples are obtained, pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding, and a bandage will be placed over the incision site.
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The entire procedure typically takes less than an hour, although the actual biopsy may be brief. The samples collected will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

It is important to follow any post-procedure instructions given by your healthcare provider and to report any unusual symptoms or signs of infection.

Note: Breast biopsies are not solely performed on cisgender women. Transgender individuals, both assigned male at birth and assigned female at birth, may also undergo breast biopsies depending on their health status and the presence of any concerning breast abnormalities.