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Biopsy methods

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Biopsy methods

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Your doctor can use several biopsy methods to remove tissue for the pathologist to examine. The choice depends on such things as the size and location of the lump or suspicious area and your general health. Ask your doctor which of these methods will be used for your biopsy:

  • Aspiration. The use of a needle and syringe to try to drain the lump. If the lump is a cyst (a fluid-filled sac that is not cancer), removing the fluid will collapse it. No other treatment will be needed.
  • Fine-Needle Aspiration. The use of a thin needle and syringe to collect cell clumps or single cells from the lump.
  • Needle Biopsy. The removal of a small piece of breast tissue using a needle that has a special cutting edge; also called a core needle biopsy.

If cancer is not found using fine-needle aspiration or needle biopsy, the doctor will most likely do an excisional or incisional biopsy. The doctor uses these tests to make sure cancer cells were not missed by the needle.

  • Excisional Biopsy. The removal of all of the lump. Used most often, it is the current "standard" procedure for small (less than about an inch in diameter) lumps. Also called a lumpectomy.
  • Incisional Biopsy. The removal of part of the lump. This method may be used if the breast lump is large.
  • Mammographic Localization With Biopsy. Used when a breast change can be seen on a mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) but cannot be felt. In this procedure, the doctor uses the mammogram as a guide for placing small needles (needle localization) at the site of the breast change. Sometimes dye is used instead of needles to mark the site. The suspicious tissue then can be removed for examination by the pathologist.

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