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Taking a Breast Biopsy

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 21 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Breast Biospy; Invasive; Surgery;

For the hundreds of women who find a breast lump or are told that their routine mammogram has shown some abnormalities fear and anxiety are almost guaranteed to arise.There is a chance that these abnormalities will turn out to be nothing particularly harmful, but further investigation will be needed to determine whether the cause is serious or not. In order to do this a breast biopsy will probably be taken and sent for analysis.

Types Of Breast Biopsy

In order top obtain a sample of breast tissue or fluid, it may be that a surgical procedure is necessary, or it might be taken using the less invasive method of using imaging technology and either a fine sharp instrument that takes a tiny slither of the tissue, a device used to apply a vacuum to obtain cells or using a syringe to withdraw fluids.

Image Guided Biopsy

This method involves inserting an instrument containing a fine hollow tube, which is inserted into the breast lump, followed by very quickly operating a cutting mechanism which collects a sample of the breast lump.In order to guide the device into the lump and ensuring that a sample of the abnormal tissue or fluid is obtained the use of x-ray or other imaging device might be used. This is particularly useful for lumps that have not been found by a manual examination and cannot be felt properly if at all my examining the breast by hand. Mammograms are useful for detecting abnormalities that are in the deeper tissues of the breast.

The Procedure

This procedure will require you to remove your clothing and metallic jewellery from the upper half of the body. You will then need to be positioned in order for the imaging device to locate the exact site in the breast that the sample is to be obtained from. This is often on your side or facing the ceiling. A small amount of local anaesthetic will be injected into the breast at the site of needle insertion. If required a small amount of sedation may be offered, in which case you will be unable to drive or operate machinery for the rest of the day.Using the imaging device, the lump is located and the sampling device introduced. The tip of the device will be visualised on the imaging screen and guided to the exact site of the lump from which the sample will be taken.The device is retracted and pressure will be applied to the wound and a dressing applied.

Surgical Procedure

When a breast biopsy is obtained surgically it is common for the surgeon to remove the whole lump plus a margin of surrounding tissue to ensure that all cells are likely to have been removed. This is called a lumpectomy. This can be achieved using local anaesthetic but some are performed under a general anaesthetic. They can be carried out as a day-patient unless there are other medical conditions or complications arise.If the breast mass is quite large, a sample of tissue is taken from the middle of the lump as a surgical procedure.

It is common for the patient to undergo an imaging procedure before the surgery during which the imaging techniques allows the lump to be identified and a tiny wire placed into or next to the lump which is trimmed and secured at the surface of the skin. This allows the surgeon to perform minimal dissection by targeting the site of the tumour immediately. This prevent unnecessary dissection, possible spreading the suspicious cells and minimises scarring allowing for quicker healing.

Obtaining a breast biopsy can be a frightening experience for the patient but it is essential in order to determine the cause of the abnormality. It can be performed using imaging technology or as a surgical procedure.The patient’s own circumstances, nature and size of the lump and services available in the region will all contribute in selecting the most appropriate procedure for the patient.

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