A biopsy is when a sample of cells or tissue is taken so that it can be examined under the microscope by the pathologist. The majority of breast lumps are benign (not cancers). Taking a biopsy is sometimes very important to confirm the diagnosis.
If you need a biopsy, this will be explained to you. Once you had the biopsy performed, you will receive a leaflet about post biopsy care. We will give a further appointment to receive your biopsy results. This will be usually in a week.
There are four sorts of biopsies that are carried out in Breast Care: fine needle aspiration cytology, core biopsy, skin punch biopsy and vacuum biopsy. All medical procedures can result in complications and we take steps to minimise the risks. The commonest complication after a biopsy is bleeding, which may result in a haematoma, so if you have a clotting disorder (such as haemophilia) or take anything that thins your blood (for example, warfarin, aspirin or clopidogrel) you should tell us. Most people will get some bruising after their biopsy.
Fine needle aspiration cytology
Fine needle aspiration cytology is where a needle and syringe are inserted into the area of concern and a sample of cells are taken. These are then sent to the pathologist to be examined under the microscope.
Core biopsy is a procedure where an injection of local anaesthetic is used to numb the skin before a needle is introduced through a small cut in the skin. Once the needle is in the area of concern, the biopsy is taken - there is a loud click as this is being done as the biopsy needle is spring-loaded. Several core biopsies may need to be taken to get a representative sample. These are then sent to the pathologist to be examined under the microscope.
Skin punch biopsy
Skin punch biopsy is used when the area of concern is on the skin of the breast rather than the underlying breast tissue. This biopsy is done after an injection of local anaesthetic to numb the skin. A small circle of skin is then removed and is sent to the pathologist to be examined under the microscope.
This biopsy is rarely done on the first visit - it is usually done when an initial biopsy has not produced enough tissue for the pathologist to make the diagnosis. Sometimes vacuum biopsy can be used to remove small abnormalities completely. All the tissue removed is then sent to the pathologist to be examined under the microscope.