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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Biopsy for breast cancer

Biopsy for breast cancer

Some common biopsies used to help doctors make a breast cancer diagnosis include: fine needle aspiration biopsy, which uses a small needle; core needle biopsy, which uses a larger needle; MRI-guided biopsy; or surgical biopsy, in which all or part of a lump is removed and checked for cancer. Fine needle aspiration and core needle biopsies may be performed using certain imaging tests, such as ultrasound, breast MRI, mammography or CT scan.

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: Your doctor may first perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph glands under the arm. First, a radioactive substance and/or a dye is injected directly under the skin of the breast. The first set of lymph nodes are then removed and reviewed by a pathologist to check for the presence of cancer cells. 

What is a biopsy?

During a biopsy, a doctor removes a sample of tissue or fluid from the body. A pathologist inspects the cells under a microscope to see if they are cancerous. If the cells are found to be cancerous, a biopsy may help determine whether the cancer began at the site of the biopsy or if it started somewhere else in the body and spread to the biopsy site.

Some biopsies are performed endoscopically, others under image guidance, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the radiology suite. In some cases, biopsies are performed in the operating suite. This allows your doctor to collect tissue from deep inside the body. 

Some sites that are commonly biopsied include the breast, skin, bone marrow, GI tract, lung, liver, bladder, colon and lymph nodes. Our doctors determine the method of biopsy based on several factors, such as the size, shape, location, and characteristics of the abnormality.

Biopsy medical animation