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Breast biopsy

Bonnie N Joe, MD, PhD
Laura J Esserman, MD, MBA
Section Editor
Anees B Chagpar, MD, MSc, MA, MPH, MBA, FACS, FRCS(C)
Deputy Editor
Wenliang Chen, MD, PhD


In the patient with a palpable breast mass or suspicious mammographic abnormality, the obligatory diagnostic technique is percutaneous biopsy. Surgical biopsy should not be used as a diagnostic tool unless percutaneous palpation-guided or image-guided biopsy is not feasible [1].

The types and choice of method for breast biopsy and postoperative care and follow-up, including reviewing biopsy results and the potential need for rebiopsy, are reviewed here. The clinical features and diagnosis of a breast mass and screening for breast cancer that might indicate the need for breast biopsy are reviewed elsewhere. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of a palpable breast mass" and "Screening for breast cancer: Strategies and recommendations".)

The treatment of specific breast diagnoses identified through breast biopsy (eg, invasive ductal carcinoma, ductal carcinoma in situ) is discussed in specific topic reviews. (See "Overview of the treatment of newly diagnosed, non-metastatic breast cancer".)


Properly preparing patients for breast biopsy and the potential results can do much to alleviate anxiety. The Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) categories 4A, 4B, and 4C identify lesions as having low, moderate, and high likelihood of being associated with a malignancy (table 1). (See "Breast imaging for cancer screening: Mammography and ultrasonography", section on 'The BI-RADS categories'.)

Some facilities premedicate the patient with lorazepam or other short-acting anxiolytics medications. Patients receiving more than just local anesthesia need to make arrangements for transportation and be accompanied home.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 03, 2016.
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