A breast biopsy is a simple procedure in which a very small piece of breast tissue is removed from a lump in the breast and examined under a microscope. This is a crucial step in deciding if the lump is benign means non-cancerous or malignant i.e, cancerous. It’s important to remember that breast lumps aren’t always cancerous. A biopsy is usually ordered if there is a lump or thickening in breast or armpit, bloody discharge from nipple, inversion of nipple, skin changes or in case of abnormal ultrasound or mammogram reports.
The biopsy is usually performed under anaesthesia under an ultrasound, mammogram or MRI guidance. There are several ways a surgeon can take a sample of breast tissue. During a fine needle biopsy, a surgeon inserts a small needle and syringe into the lump and extracts a sample. In a core needle biopsy, a larger needle is used to collect several samples, about the size of a rice grain. In a stereotactic biopsy, the surgeon will make a small incision and remove samples with a needle or a vacuum-powered probe. A surgical biopsy involves the surgical removal of a breast mass and a metal marker may be left in the breast to monitor the area in the future.
Then these biopsy samples are sent to a laboratory and it takes a few days for proper analysis and final report. The results can come back as benign, precancerous, or cancerous. If the sample is cancerous, the biopsy results will also be able to reveal the subtype of cancer. The doctor will use the type of cancer and other information from the biopsy to help plan individualised treatment with a team of oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons and pathologists.
So, please remember that a biopsy is absolutely must to establish a proper diagnosis and there is absolutely no risk of tumor seeding along the path of needle or biopsy track. In-fact on the biopsy sample, further tests have to be conducted as ER, PR, Her 2 neu, Ki-67 which help in deciding whether tumor will respond to hormonal treatments or targeted therapy or if it’s triple-negative and hence tailored therapy for every patient is possible. In fact, a re-biopsy on metastatic tumor is recommended as its character might have changed from the primary tumor.
Before a biopsy tell your doctor about any allergies, intake of blood thinners, or any electronic devices as pacemaker implanted in your body. Some possible temporary side effects of a breast biopsy may be redness, bluish discoloration, soreness, pain or infection at the site of infection. Complications from a biopsy are very rare.
So, my dear friend, bust the myth that biopsy leads to spread of tumor faster rather not getting it done delays the diagnosis. The benefits of having your potentially cancerous lump inspected far outweigh the risks from the procedure. The quicker breast cancer is detected, the faster treatment can begin. This will greatly improve your overall outlook and survival.
Wishing everyone a cancer-free life!