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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Breast biopsy

Whakamātaunga ū

Fine needle aspirationIf a mammogram shows an area of concern or if you find a lump in your breast that needs investigating, you may need to have a biopsy.

A biopsy involves removing some tissue and looking at it under a microscope. This will show whether the lump is cancer, possibly cancer or a benign (non-cancerous) growth.

A biopsy can be done in several ways. The cells might be removed with a small needle, which is called a fine needle aspiration or FNA. The needle is so fine you're unlikely to need any local anaesthetic.

You may need a larger piece of tissue removed with a larger needle. This is called a core biopsy. You'll have a local anaesthetic to numb the area before a core biopsy.

If there is no lump to feel but your screening mammogram shows an area of concern needing surgery, you'll need what is called hook wire localisation (or another similar technique). To do this, the radiologist inserts a fine wire into the area of concern, guided by the mammogram image or an ultrasound scan. The surgeon uses the wire to guide them to the area the biopsy has to come from. You'll have a local anaesthetic before the wire is inserted.

If the tissue is cancerous, your general practice team will refer you to a breast surgeon to discuss the appropriate treatment.

If the cells aren't cancerous, you may still need to have the lump removed to be absolutely sure. This procedure is called a lumpectomy. Your general practice team will refer you to the breast surgeon to discuss this.

Most benign breast lumps do not need surgery.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2022.


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