If you need a breast cancer biopsy, it’s important to remember that a lump or abnormal mammogram does not equal cancer.

Your surgeon will have many types of biopsies to choose from, and what they choose will depend on your tumor size, location, shape, and if there are multiple lumps or knots.​

Core Needle Biopsy

​A core needle biopsy uses hollow needles to collect samples into small cylinders, or cores. Three to six samples will be taken from the suspicious area to ensure enough tissue is collected to make a clear diagnosis. The surgeon will use x-rays or ultrasound to place the needle in the proper place unless it can be felt through the skin.

Other Core Needle Options

Stereotactic and vacuum-assisted are two additional core needle biopsy procedures.

Stereotactic core needle biopsy analyzes the breast with X-ray equipment and a computer. It is typically used when the mass can’t be located by touch or ultrasound.

For vacuum-assisted biopsies, your surgeon will numb the area of the biopsy and make less than a 1/4-inch incision to insert a hollow probe into the incision. Guided by X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI, the probe will pull abnormal tissue into the cylinder while a tiny knife cuts the tissue away.

Some tumors may require an MRI-guided biopsy if the suspicious area can’t be located with X-ray or ultrasound, or if the area is distorted.

Excisional Biopsy

If a larger tissue sample is needed, your surgeon may choose to perform an excisional biopsy. During an excisional biopsy, your surgeon will make a one- to two-inch incision to try to move the entire suspicious area. To ensure the entire mass is removed, healthy tissue will often be removed as well. Although this is an outpatient procedure, intravenous and general anesthesia are used.