Mammogram and Breast Biopsy
Sep 18, 2009Ask the Expert
Professor of Surgery
Chief, Endocrine and Oncologic Surgery and
Director, Integrated Breast Center at
Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Ari Brooks, MD is a breast surgical oncology specialist in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Brooks completed a residency at New York University Medical Centertisch Hospital. He currently practices at Pennsylvania Hospital Surgery and is affiliated with Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He accepts multiple insurance plans. Dr. Brooks is board certified in General Surgery.Full Bio
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Based on my mammogram results, I may need a biopsy. What is a biopsy, and how is it done? Should I be worried?
The only way your doctor can determine whether a suspicious lump is cancerous or not is to perform a breast biopsy. That involves removing a sample of breast tissue to examine it under a microscope for signs of cancer. Rest assured, having a biopsy does not mean you have breast cancer. In fact, most biopsy results (four out of five) are not cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Still, it's the only way to be sure.
A breast biopsy is either done using a needle or with surgery. The type of biopsy will depend on a number of factors, including how large the lump is, where it's located, your preference, as well as other medical problems. Be sure to tell your doctor about any allergies you have or if you are taking blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) or aspirin.
Many biopsies can be done in your doctor's office or in the radiology suite under local anesthesia. The sample of breast tissue is then sent to the laboratory where it is examined by a pathologist (a doctor who has special training to examine cells under a microscope and identify diseases).
There are several types of breast biopsies, including:
With any of the above, your surgeon or radiologist may use imaging studies, such as mammogram, MRI or ultrasound, to help guide the positioning of the needle or pinpoint the exact location of the lump during surgery.
It usually takes several days before the results come back. If the lump is benign (not cancer), no additional steps are needed, but it's important to stay on top of routine mammograms and monthly breast self-exams. If the biopsy is positive (shows signs of cancer), the results will help your health care provider determine recommendations for treatment.
Don't rush into any decisions. You may want to seek a second opinion before deciding which treatment is right for you. Remember, your input is important, so ask questions if you're unsure about anything, and get the support you need.