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What Does a Breast Biopsy Say About My Health?

What Does a Breast Biopsy Say About My Health?
Your doctor tells you that you have to undergo a breast biopsy to take a closer look at a lump, bump, or other abnormality in your breast. What does it mean when your doctor takes a biopsy? Do you have cancer already?

Thanks to increased use of mammograms and improvement in therapies, death rates from breast cancer fell by 43% from 1989 to 2020. Nevertheless, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of death by cancer in women.

Early diagnosis improves your odds of surviving any cancer, including breast cancer. That’s why your gynecologist recommends regular mammograms, scheduled according to your age and risk factor.

If your mammogram shows abnormalities, your doctor may then recommend a diagnostic mammogram or other studies to get a better look at the suspicious tissues. They may also recommend a breast biopsy.

At Mass Medical Imaging in Lake Forest, Illinois, our expert doctors Joseph Calandra, MD and Karen Mass, MD are committed to your breast health. They offer screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, and breast biopsies to aid in early detection of breast cancer, or to rule it out.

Have you been told that you need a breast biopsy? Here’s what you need to know about what that may mean. 

Why you need a biopsy

When your doctor tells you that they need to take a biopsy of your breast, that doesn’t mean that you have cancer. It does mean, however, that they’ve detected an abnormal growth that needs further investigation. They may order from several types of biopsies:

Fine needle aspiration

In this least invasive form of breast biopsy, your doctor attaches a very fine, hollow needle to a syringe. They then insert the needle into the area that needs investigation and remove a small amount of tissue or fluid.

Core needle biopsy

A core needle biopsy uses a larger needle than fine-needle aspiration does. We often use this method if we strongly suspect that the area under investigation is cancerous. 

Surgical biopsy

Sometimes, we may need to remove all or part of a lump before testing. We then also remove a margin of healthy tissue. In the case of cancer, having that margin gives greater insurance that we were able to get all of the cancerous cells. 

Lymph node biopsy

Depending on whether we suspect cancer may have spread to your lymph nodes, we may also biopsy the lymph nodes in your armpit at the same time we conduct a breast biopsy. We may do this via needle or dissection.

Results take a few days

After we remove cells or tissue from the suspicious area, we send the samples to a laboratory for analysis. The pathologist examines the tissue or fluid for cancer cells or cancerous changes. 

The pathologist sends us a report based on their findings. They let us know whether the cells they examined were cancerous or noncancerous. We then correlate the pathologist’s findings with the radiologist’s (i.e., the person who interpreted your mammogram) findings. 

What happens next

If the radiologist suspected cancerous tissue, but the sample comes back marked benign, we may need to conduct another biopsy. We wouldn’t want to miss a potential cancer. However, if both the radiologist and pathologist agree that the tissue seems to be benign, then you’re in the clear.

If the pathologist’s report indicates that cancer is present, they also tell us the type of cancer it is and what stage it is. You also learn whether it's a hormone receptor positive or negative cancer, which helps us develop an appropriate treatment plan.

If you have cancer

If the breast biopsy is positive, we immediately refer you to an oncologist for further treatment. You may need surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or all three. 

If your cancer is limited to the breast, you have a 99% chance of surviving at five years, with treatment. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate is 86% with treatment. The earlier we find and remove the cancer, the better your chances for a long and productive life.

Schedule your mammogram or breast biopsy today by calling our friendly team or using our online appointment form.