At some point in your life, you may have a lump or change in your breast or have an abnormal finding on a mammogram. To make sure it is not cancer, you will have follow-up tests.
Learn more about follow-up after an abnormal mammogram or clinical breast exam.
Biopsies and breast cancer diagnosis
In many cases, cancer can be ruled out with a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound or MRI. However, if cancer can't be ruled out, you will need to have a biopsy.
A biopsy involves removing cells or tissue from the suspicious area of the breast. The cells or tissue are studied under a microscope to see if they show cancer.
If you need to have a biopsy, don’t panic. Having a biopsy can be scary, but keep in mind many women in the United States have breast biopsies, and most do not show cancer . Still, a biopsy is needed to know if something is cancer or not.
If breast cancer is found, often it can be treated successfully. Learn more about breast cancer treatment.
Types of biopsies
There are two main types of biopsies used to diagnose breast cancer:
With a needle biopsy, a health care provider removes the tissue or cells with a needle. With a surgical biopsy, a surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the breast to remove tissue. Most often, a needle biopsy is done first. Then, if needed, a surgical biopsy will be done.
Your provider will determine which type of biopsy is the best way to rule out or confirm breast cancer.
Learn more about the advantages and drawbacks of each type of biopsy in Figure 4.1.