Consumer Health Blog

What Do You Need to Know About Your Breast Biopsy?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

If you or your doctor has found a lump in your breast, a breast biopsy will determine whether it is a cyst or a solid mass and whether or not that mass is cancerous. Most lumps are not cancerous. Discuss with your physician the type of biopsy most suitable to your situation.

Fine needle aspiration. A very thin needle is attached to a syringe to withdraw a small amount of tissue from the area of concern. Your physician may actually feel the lump or use ultrasound or computers monitoring dual mammograms for guidance to its exact location. If the tissue analysis does not reveal a clear diagnosis, a different type of biopsy is then required. You may receive a local anesthetic for this procedure.
Core needle biopsy. A slightly larger, hollow needle is used to remove multiple, small cores (cylinders) of tissue from the abnormal area. The procedure takes longer than fine needle aspiration and may cause some bruising but is often more accurate because of the multiple samples. Local anesthesia to the breast may be combined with a sedative to make you sleepy.

Stereotactic, ultrasound-guided, MRI-guided biopsy. Any of these various methods of guidance may be used to allow your surgeon to identify the exact location of your mass for optimal core needle insertion.

Surgical (open) biopsy. If a needle biopsy does not reveal the cause of breast tissue change, surgical biopsy, which involves removing a portion of the mass (incisional biopsy) or the entire mass (excisional biopsy) may be recommended. During this procedure, you will receive a local anesthetic to numb your breast and, in many cases, a sedative to make you sleepy. A general anesthetic may also be used. Stitches will be required to close the incision.

Wire localization. For small masses that are difficult to find by touch, this procedure done prior to surgical biopsy, marks the exact location for the surgeon. Once the breast is numbed with a local anesthetic, a thin, hollow needle with a wire inside of it is guided to the mass by x-ray. A small hook at the end of it holds it in place. Once the needle is removed, the wire remains to guide the surgeon to the hook.

Post-biopsy care. After your biopsy, you may take an over-the-counter, non-aspirin pain reliever and apply an ice pack to reduce swelling. Follow your doctor’s instructions to protect your stitches.


Abington Surgical Center surgeons perform various types of breast biopsies. If “wire” or “needle” localizations are required, they may be performed immediately prior to your biopsy next door at the Abington Hospital Outpatient Center for your convenience. Please consult your physician to learn more about these procedures.

Need a referral to a surgeon? Please call our Referral Coordinator: 267-960-1440.

Information provided is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.