Breast Biopsy

When other tests show that you might have breast cancer, you will probably need to have a biopsy. Needing a breast biopsy doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Most biopsy results are not cancer, but a biopsy is the only way to find out for sure. During a biopsy, a doctor will remove small pieces from the suspicious area so they can be looked at in the lab to see if they contain cancer cells.

Types of breast biopsies

There are different kinds of breast biopsies. Some are done using a hollow needle, and some use an incision (cut in the skin). Each has pros and cons. The type you have depends on a number of things, like:

  • How suspicious the breast change looks
  • How big it is
  • Where it is in the breast
  • If there is more than one
  • Any other medical problems you might have
  • Your personal preferences

For most suspicious areas in the breast, a needle biopsy (rather than a surgical biopsy) can be done. Ask the doctor which type of biopsy you will have and what you can expect during and after the procedure.

Regardless of which type of biopsy you have, the biopsy samples will be sent to a lab where a specialized doctor called a pathologist will look at them. It typically will take at least a few days for you to find out the results.

If the doctor doesn't think you need a biopsy, but you still feel there’s something wrong with your breast, follow your instincts. Don’t be afraid to talk to the doctor about this or go to another doctor for a second opinion. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: October 3, 2019 Last Revised: October 3, 2019

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