You may need a biopsy if you had an abnormal mammogram, MRI or ultrasound screening. Biopsies provide more information for the surgeon to make a diagnosis.
Breast Biopsy Details:
There are 4 types of biopsy procedures:
- Fine Needle: a very small needle is used to collect a small amount of tissue for diagnostic testing
- Core Needle: a larger, hollow needle is used to collect more tissue than a fine needle biopsy for diagnostic testing
- Incisional: a surgical procedure in which a portion of the abnormal area is removed for diagnostics. An incisional biopsy may be needed if your surgeon can’t safely access the concerning area with a fine needle or core needle.
- Excisional: a surgical procedure in which all of the abnormal area is removed. Excisional biopsies are usually performed for non-cancerous (benign) tumors. An excisional biopsy may also be performed for diagnostic testing if a fine needle or core needle biopsy can’t be performed safely.
Biopsies are usually outpatient procedures, meaning you leave the same day as the procedure. Ask your surgeon what to expect for recovery and hospital stay.
What is a lymph node?
The lymphatic system is what your body uses to fight off infection, viruses, and cancer. It is part of your immune system.
Lymph nodes are clusters of cells called lymphocytes that help fight off bacteria, viruses, and other foreign cells, like cancer cells. The lymph nodes near your armpit and breast are called axillary lymph nodes.
What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy?
A sentinel lymph node biopsy is typically performed by your breast surgeon at the same time as a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or a Hidden Scar procedure. In a sentinel lymph node biopsy, a breast surgeon will surgically remove one or more sentinel lymph nodes. By removing these sentinel lymph nodes, the surgeon will be removing the cancer cells from your lymphatic system so the cancer won’t spread to other parts of your body.
The surgeon will inject blue, radioactive dye into your breast tumor. This dye will spread to your lymph nodes to help the surgeon see your lymph nodes. Once these nodes are identified, the surgeon will make an incision in your armpit (also called your axilla). An incision in this location will be hidden. The surgeon will remove one or more lymph nodes.
These sentinel lymph nodes are sent to a pathologist during your surgery to determine if cancer cells are present. If the pathologist finds cancer cells in your sentinel lymph nodes, your breast surgeon knows that your cancer has entered your lymphatic system, and will continue to remove more lymph nodes. If the pathologist does not find cancer cells in your sentinel lymph nodes, your breast surgeons knows that your cancer has not entered your lymphatic system and, therefore, has not spread.