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Overview of the Excisional Breast Biopsy

written by: DulceCorazon • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 6/22/2010

Breast biopsy is one way to determine if the breast lump found during a breast examination is benign or malignant. Find out more about breast biopsy, procedure and result interpretation.

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    Types of Breast Biopsy

    Breast biopsy is an important diagnostic measure for breast cancer. It is performed by taking sample tissues from the breast and have them analyzed in the laboratory for the presence of cancer cells or for other disorders that may occur in the breast. Breast biopsy is generally done after a lump has been identified during the physical breast examination or during an ultrasound of the breast. Obtaining a sample breast tissue for biopsy is done in several manners. These include surgical biopsy and fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB). An FNAB is usually done by using a needle to get to the lump and aspirate some cells for study.

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    Importance of Breast Biopsy

    Breast biopsies are important because they are the only determinants, whether the lump present during the breast exam or seen on the mammogram screening test is cancerous or not. Although not all lumps call for the need of a biopsy, many doctors think that it is best to identify the cause of the lump for proper management.

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    Excisional Breast Biopsy Procedure

    Surgical biopsy is further divided into two, the incisional and excisional biopsy. Incisional biopsy determines the malignancy of the tumor by removing a small part of the lump. This is done especially for lumps that are big. The procedure is often done under local anesthetics and the patient can go home after the procedure.

    In excisional biopsy, the entire mass or lump is removed for studies. This is commonly done for lumps which are smaller. It is also referred to as lumpectomy.

    The procedure is done using sterile methods. After administration of antiseptics around the breast area, a local anesthetic is then injected. Tranquilizers may also be given depending on the patient’s preference. The surgeon starts by making an incision which is about about 2 to 4 cm, along the breast’s contour. He then takes out the lump and some parts of the surrounding tissue. After suturing the incision, the client is wheeled into the recovery room and is often allowed to go home after the effects of anesthesia have waned.The procedure usually takes about an hour to complete.

    Complications from the surgery are often minor such as bruising and scarring, but most of the time, the scars are small and sometimes unnoticeable. Possibility of infection is less because the procedure is done using sterile techniques.

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    Interpretation of Breast Biopsy Result

    Breast tissues that were removed from the procedure were then sent to the laboratory to be analyzed by the pathologist. Results from the biopsy may either tell if the breast lump contains benign, pre-cancerous or carcerous cells. Examples of benign breast conditions are fibrocystic disease of the breast and adenofibroma. Precancerous conditions include atypical lobular and atypical ductal hyperplasia. And for breast cancer, ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma.

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    References

    The New York Times: Breast Biopsy

    WebMD: Breast Biopsy