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Surgical Breast Biopsy: Types of Biopsies

A surgical breast biopsy requires an incision in the skin. This allows your doctor to take a large sample of tissue from the breast. In fact, the whole lump is often removed. The sample is then sent to a lab for study.

Image of core biopsy

Core biopsy

The most common way to obtain a sample of breast tissue is with core biopsy. This procedure uses a hollow instrument to remove the tissue sample. A small incision is made in the skin. The hollow instrument is inserted through the incision. A local anesthetic is used to numb the site first. If the lump can be felt, the core biopsy can be done in the doctor's office. Often, the entire mass is removed. Core biopsy takes about an hour to perform. Because of the size of the sample removed, stitches are often needed to close the incision.

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Open surgical biopsy

Open surgical biopsy removes a tissue sample through a skin incision. To keep you from feeling pain during the biopsy, you are likely to be given intravenous sedation. This produces a light sleep. Your surgeon then makes one incision in your breast. If possible, this is done in a way that hides the scar. In most cases, all of the lump is removed. The incision is closed with stitches. Some stitches dissolve on their own. Others may need to be removed when the incision heals.

Image of wire localization

Wire localization

A lump that can’t be felt may be hard to locate. In such a case, a mammogram or ultrasound is used to locate the area. One or more thin guide wires may be placed in your breast before biopsy surgery to mark the tissue that is to be removed. Then you’re taken to the operating room for surgery. The wire is removed during the biopsy.

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/16/2013
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