(Biopsy, Breast Needle; Breast Needle Aspiration; Aspiration, Breast Needle; Fine Needle Aspiration; Aspiration, Fine Needle; Stereotactic Core Needle Biopsy; Biopsy, Stereotactic Core Needle; MRI-guided Breast Biopsy; Biopsy, MRI-guided Breast; Vacuum-assisted Device Biopsy; Biopsy, Vacuum-assisted Device; Ultrasound-directed Needle Biopsy; Biopsy, Ultrasound-directed Needle)
Breast needle biopsy is the removal of a sample of breast tissue using a needle. The sample is examined in a lab. There are different types of breast needle biopsies:
Reasons for Procedure
Breast needle biopsy is done to examine a suspicious area in the breast. It may be done if any of the following are found:
- Tissue thickening
- Nipple abnormality
- Discharge from the nipple
- Abnormal ultrasound or mammogram image
The biopsy can identify the area as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam, especially a breast exam
- Blood tests
- Mammogram and/or breast ultrasound
Leading up to the biopsy:
- Talk to your doctor about your current medications. Certain medication may need to be stopped before the procedure.
- Shower the morning of the biopsy. You may be asked to use a special antibacterial soap.
You may receive local anesthesia. If this is the case, the area that is being operated on will be numbed.
Description of the Procedure
The doctor will choose from several types of biopsies to get a tissue sample:
The skin over the area will be cleaned. A small needle will be inserted into the breast tissue. Fluid and/or tissue will be removed. The needle may be removed and re-inserted more than one time. After this is done, the doctor will apply pressure to the area and cover the spot with a bandage.
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An ultrasound device is used to locate the area where the biopsy needs to be taken. After the location is found, a small needle will be inserted in the breast tissue. Samples of fluid and/or tissue will be removed. A bandage will be applied after the needle is removed.
The doctor may have you lie down on your stomach or sit depending on the equipment being used. Mammogram or ultrasound images will be taken to locate the suspicious area. The doctor will make a tiny cut in your breast and insert a special probe. Using the probe, the doctor will remove several core samples of breast tissue from the area. After this is done, the area will be covered with a bandage.
In some instances, the suspicious area can only be seen using an MRI scan. Because of this, an MRI-guided breast biopsy may be needed. This procedure takes more time. Tell your doctor if you have a cardiac pacemaker. It may affect the procedure.
How Long Will It Take?
It will take less than 1 hour. After the procedure, the tissue collected will be sent to a pathologist who will look at it under a microscope. It may take about 2-5 days to receive the test results.
Will It Hurt?
There will be slight pain in your breast after the biopsy. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication.
Home care will include using medications or taking self-care measures to reduce discomfort. The care staff will give instructions on how to change any bandages. Doing this will help reduce the chance of infection.
Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the biopsy site
- Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you’ve been given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Updated September 17, 2012. Accessed January 22, 2013.
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Updated December 17, 2013. Accessed January 22, 2013.
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Heywang-Köbrunner SH, et al. Interdisciplinary consensus on the uses and technique of MRI-guided vacuum-assisted breast biopsy (VAB): Results of a European consensus meeting. Eur J Radiol. 2009;72(2):289-294.
Kinds of biopsies. Cancer Prevention Institute of California website. Available at:
Accessed January 22, 2013.
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Last Updated: 12/20/2014