Breast Biopsy

At Providence, we help guide you through uncertainty. A breast biopsy allows our doctors to evaluate potential breast cancers and provide precise diagnoses and treatment.

A biopsy is a procedure used to remove tissue from the body. The tissue is extracted and examined by specialists to determine the presence or cause of a disease.  

Biopsies are often performed on the breast to diagnose breast cancer. A variety of methodologies can be used, such as:

  • Fine needle biopsy
  • Core needle biopsy
  • Surgical biopsy 

The most common biopsy is the core needle biopsy. To provide the most effective biopsy, different techniques are used to help guide the core needle to the area of concern. These image-guiding techniques include: 

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound (sonography)
  • Mammographic (stereotactic) 

Fine and core needle biopsy procedures are minimally invasive and are performed using local anesthesia. If the results of these biopsy techniques are unclear, or a needle biopsy can’t be performed, your doctor will recommend a surgical biopsy. This procedure is the most invasive, so it is typically only considered when other methodologies are not recommended.

During a surgical biopsy, your surgeon removes more than just a small sample of tissue. In general, a small lump will be completely removed (excisional biopsy) and large lumps will have a portion of it removed (incisional biopsy). Even though this is considered surgery, this type of biopsy is generally performed on an outpatient basis.

The core needle biopsy is a routine procedure performed under local anesthesia. Our surgeons, nurses and caregivers work to ensure your procedure is performed in a comfortable and relaxing environment.

  • During your procedure, your doctor will use a needle with a large core as the main biopsy device.
  • Using specific imaging techniques to guide the needle, your surgeon will insert the biopsy device into the breast and extract tissue from the suspicious area. Because fine needle biopsies tend to remove very little tissue or fluid from the breast, the core needle biopsy has become the gold standard method for examining breast abnormalities.
  • The advantage of a core needle biopsy is that it removes more tissue for analysis, so it is both more accurate for diagnosis and more useful in evaluating breast cancers.
  • A pathologist examines the extracted tissue specimen to detect any cancer cells. If cancer is present, the pathologist can then look at the cancer’s characteristics and formulate a precise diagnosis.
  • If breast cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will partner with you on developing a care plan that will result in the most optimal outcome.  
Sentinel node biopsy/sentinel lymphadenectomy

Surgeons at Providence are highly skilled at an innovative technique called sentinel node biopsy, now used in cancer centers worldwide. Also known as lymphatic mapping, the technique helps to identify the lymph nodes most likely to contain cancerous cells without the need for intense surgery.

During this procedure, surgeons inject radioisotope and/or blue dye into the area near the tumor to locate the sentinel nodes.

By looking at this blue or radioactive lymph node, the stage of cancer can be determined without radical surgery, and potentially compromised nodes can be removed before the cancer spreads.

Breast biopsies involve various minor risks and complications, due to the numerous techniques used in the extraction of cancerous tissue. These complications include infection, bleeding, bruising or swelling of the infection site. If undergoing a stereotactic biopsy, there is also a slight risk of radiation exposure, due to the X-rays used to image the breast.