A breast biopsy is usually done to check a lump found during a breast exam or a suspicious area found on a mammogram or ultrasound. The biopsy removes a sample of breast tissue that is examined by a pathologist under a microscope to check for breast cancer.

There are several ways to do a breast biopsy:

Lymph Node Biopsy (Fine-Needle Aspiration)

Fine-needle aspiration places a thin needle through the skin and into the area to remove cells for examination. Needle aspiration may be done to see if the lump is solid or a fluid filled cyst. If the lump is a cyst, it will normally go away after the fluid is removed.

Core-Needle Biopsy

A core-needle biopsy inserts a special needle through the skin and into the lump or area of concern to remove a sample of tissue about the size of a pencil lead. A core-needle biopsy can also be done using a suction unit that gently removes a larger sample of tissue.

Stereotactic Biopsy

A stereotactic biopsy uses a special type of X-ray during a core needle biopsy to precisely locate the area of the breast where the biopsy sample will be taken. This technique can check a lump that cannot be felt during a breast examination but can be seen on a mammogram or ultrasound.

Ultrasound-Guided Needle Biopsy

An ultrasound-guided needle biopsy is a special technique that may be used to obtain tissue samples from areas where calcifications are seen on a mammogram. The radiologist uses ultrasound to guide a needle with increased precision to remove the tissue sample.

Open Biopsy

An open biopsy makes a cut in the skin and removes either a sample of the lump or the entire lump.