What is a biopsy?

There are essentially four types of biopsies:

  • Fine Needle Aspiration - Conducted right in your doctor's office, a long thin needle is inserted into the mass, to draw out representative cells. If the lump cannot be felt (e.g., only showed up on a mammogram), then a sonogram can be used simultaneously to ensure the needle is inserted into the suspicious group of cells. One risk of inaccuracy here is that the report can come back benign if the mass contained both cancerous and non-cancerous cells, but the needle only withdrew the non-cancerous cells.
  • Core Biopsy - Conducted in the radiologist's office, a core biopsy uses a slightly larger needle (about the size of the lead in a pencil) to take a plug of tissue for a broader sampling of cells. Like the fine needle aspiration, a core biopsy may be done in conjunction with a sonogram.
  • ABBI Biopsy - The Advanced Breast Biopsy Imaging system is similar to the machine used for core biopsies, but removes a greater amount of tissue, including healthy tissue. Conducted under local anesthesia, the ABBI also leaves a scar from an incision on the breast.

Excisional Biopsy - In some cases serving as a lumpectomy, the surgical biopsy is the surgical removal of the entire mass and surrounding tissue, conducted under local anesthesia.

Early Detection and Diagnosis