If you have been told that you need a biopsy of your breast tissue, you may be panicking. Firstly, however, you have to understand that a breast biopsy is not necessarily a breast cancer test. It is a type of examination, and it can detect any disorder that is happening in your breast tissue.
Every woman – and man – needs to learn how to self-examine their breast tissue. This is where you can find any of the many abnormalities that could point to a problem. This includes lumps, but also change in appearance, nipple discharge, inflammation, nipple inversion or retraction, orange peel skin, lumps in the armpit, pain, and so on. If any of these symptoms are present, you need to speak to a physician, who will request a number of tests, including palpitation, a mammogram, an MRI, or an ultrasound test. If something is found on those, then a biopsy may be request.
What Is a Biopsy?
Essentially, it is a medical procedure whereby a piece of tissue is removed from an area of suspicion, which is then checked by a laboratory under a microscope to see what is going on. Biopsies can be taken of any part of the body. Depending on where it is, it can be invasive (if the suspicious tissue is deep inside the body) or non-invasive (if the suspicious tissue is on the skin). If you present with a lump in your breast, a physician will be able to order a biopsy, or a lumpectomy, whereby the entire lump is removed and a biopsy is then performed on it.
In a surgical (invasive) biopsy, an incision is made in the skin. With a non-invasive biopsy, fine needle aspirations, breast needle biopsies, or vacuum assisted biopsies are more common. All tend to be done in a clinical hospital, although the exact ward or department will vary depending on the size of the lump. The biopsy is done initially to confirm whether or not the growth is cancerous. If it is, then it will confirm the stage of the cancer, whether it has metastasized, and whether the lymph nodes are affected. If it isn’t, then it will be determined what is the cause of the problem, and what the appropriate next steps would be.
If aspirations are made during the biopsy, then a fine needle is used instead. The thickest is the core needle biopsy, which is hollow. By contrast, the vacuum biopsy uses a probe, guided through ultrasound or MRI, to extract suspicious tissue. Both procedures are painless as you will be given a local anesthetic.
Unfortunately, breast cancer is still one of the most common types of cancers in women all over the world. It is also a leading cause of death. While breast cancer is often not preventable, it is very responsive to treatment if caught early enough. This is why all women should learn to self-examine, and should accept a biopsy if one is offered to them.