This is when the doctor takes a small piece of tissue or cells (biopsy) from any abnormal areas. A pathologist will examine the tissue or cells under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A pathologist is a doctor who specialises in analysing cells. For a few days afterwards, your breast may feel sore and bruised. Taking painkillers will help with this. Any bruising will go away in a couple of weeks. There are different ways of taking a biopsy. Your doctor or nurse will explain the type of biopsy you will have.
Ultrasound guided needle biopsy
Before the biopsy, your doctor will inject some local anaesthetic into the breast to numb the area. You may feel a little soreness or a sensation of pressure, but this should only last for a short time.
An ultrasound scan is then used to show where the micro-calcification is and to help the doctor guide a needle through the skin into the exact area to be sampled.
You’ll have a few biopsies taken at the same time. Afterwards, your breast may be bruised and feel sore. You can take painkillers until this eases.
Mammogram needle biopsy
Sometimes, a mammogram is used to guide the biopsy. This is known as a stereotactic needle biopsy.
You‘ll be positioned in a mammography machine that has a special device attached. In most units, the test is done while you’re sitting down. In a few units, women are asked to lie on their front. The radiographer then takes an x-ray of your breast from two different angles to work out the exact position of the abnormal area. A needle can then be put into the right place to take a sample.
Vacuum-assisted biopsy (VAB)
This type of biopsy uses a special vacuum-assisted technique. It provides more tissue for diagnosis.
First, the doctor will numb the area with an injection of local anaesthetic. A small cut is then made in the skin. A tiny instrument or probe is placed through the cut into the breast tissue and guided to the correct area using a mammogram. When the probe is in the correct position, a vacuum gently draws out and collects a piece of breast tissue.
Several biopsies can be taken in this way, usually without having to remove and reinsert the probe.
Afterwards, the probe is taken out and the cut is covered with a small dressing, with no need for any stitches. The whole procedure takes about an hour and you’ll be able to go home straight after.
Side effects after a VAB are generally mild, but you may have bruising and feel a bit sore for a few days afterwards.
Fine needle aspiration (FNA)
This is a quick, simple test. The doctor or nurse puts a very fine needle into the area and withdraws a sample of cells into a syringe. This test is often used to take a sample of cells from lymph nodes in your armpit.