There are several ways to do a breast biopsy. The sample of breast tissue will be looked at under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
Fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Your doctor inserts a thin needle into a lump and removes a sample of cells or fluid.
Core needle biopsy. Your doctor inserts a needle with a special tip and removes a sample of breast tissue about the size of a grain of rice.
Vacuum-assisted core biopsy. This is done with a probe that uses a gentle vacuum to remove a small sample of breast tissue. The single small cut doesn't require stitches and leaves a very small scar.
Open (surgical) biopsy. Your doctor will make a small cut in the skin and breast tissue to remove part or all of a lump. This may be done as a first step to check a lump or if a needle biopsy doesn't provide enough information.
If needed, your doctor may use ultrasound or MRI to guide the biopsy needle. Or your doctor may use a computer to locate the exact spot for the biopsy sample from mammograms that have been taken from two angles (stereotactic needle biopsy). A fine wire, clip, or marker also may be used to mark the site.
Why It Is Done
A breast biopsy checks to see if a breast lump or a suspicious area seen on a mammogram is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Testing a biopsy sample is the only reliable way to find out if cancer cells are present.