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A breast biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of breast tissue for laboratory testing. It is the best way to evaluate if a suspicious area or a lump in your breast is cancerous. The procedure is usually performed if your doctor finds something questionable during a mammogram, MRI, clinical breast exam, or ultrasound. Your doctor may also recommend you to undergo the procedure if you experience symptoms of breast cancer, such as a breast lump, breast dimpling, skin thickening on the breast, nipple changes, nipple discharge, a red rash on the breast, enlarging veins on the breast, and an enlarged lymph node in the armpit.
A breast biopsy can detect inflammatory breast cancer, cancer of the breast ducts (ductal carcinoma), cancer of the lobules (lobular carcinoma), and rare cancer affecting the nipples (Paget’s disease).
It is important to remember that needing a breast biopsy does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, about 80% of women who have a breast biopsy do not have breast cancer. However, a breast biopsy is required because it is the only way to know for sure if the lump or suspicious area is cancerous or may lead to breast cancer.
Before a breast biopsy, your doctor may detect a suspicious area or lump in your breasts, or you may experience symptoms similar to breast cancer. After a breast biopsy, you will know if the lump or suspicious area is benign, precancerous, or cancerous. The result will help you and your doctor plans your treatment.
A breast biopsy can be performed in one of several different ways:
In some cases, special tools may be needed in order to guide the needles to reach the targeted area. This type of biopsy may include:
The type of biopsy you will have is depended on several factors, including:
You should be able to leave the hospital on the same day as the breast biopsy procedure, as soon as the effects of anesthesia wear off. In some cases, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight, usually after a breast biopsy as it requires general anesthesia. Since it may take several days before the results are available, it is recommended that you stay in Thailand for at least 7 days. Once the result is available, you will have to attend a follow-up visit. If you have a surgical biopsy, you will likely have stitches and your surgeon will remove them during the follow-up visit as well.
The recovery time depends on the type of breast biopsy you had and the type of anesthesia used. You generally should rest as much as possible for the remainder of the day and then resume your normal activities the day after. Still, you need to avoid strenuous activities for several days to avoid complications.
For the first few days, you may need to wear dressings and a special bra over the breast biopsy site. Your doctor will give you instructions on showering, bathing, and caring for the wounds. It is important that you keep the biopsy area clean and dry. The biopsy area may be sore for a few days following the surgery. To ease the pain and discomfort, you can take a pain reliever that contains acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, but make sure to consult with your doctor before you take anything. In most cases, your doctor will prescribe you pain medication.
A breast biopsy is a safe and effective procedure with about 95% success rate. The test result of a breast biopsy will determine if the lump or suspect area in your breast is benign (noncancerous), precancerous, or cancerous. Only 20% of breast biopsy results come back as cancerous.
If the breast lump is found to be cancerous, a breast biopsy can also detect the type of cancer. The information obtained from the biopsy can be used to help plan your treatment, which may include:
If the test revealed that the breast lump is noncancerous, the test will also tell the conditions that cause the lump, such as adenofibroma, fibrocystic breast disease, mammary fat necrosis, and intraductal papilloma.
Although breast biopsy is a very safe procedure, there are some risks associated with the procedure, including:
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical problems as well.
A breast biopsy is the only definitive method to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. You may be able to undergo a breast exam, mammogram, breast ultrasound, or breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, if anything abnormal or suspicious is found during these tests, your doctor may still suggest you to undergo a breast biopsy to know for sure. If you do not want to undergo a breast biopsy, it is important that you talk to your doctor about the alternatives.