Breast Core Biopsy Procedures

The breasts are made up of a number of cell types that grow and develop in response to a number of hormones. Dysregulation of signalling in breast cells, or breast cell mutation, can lead to the development of tumors within the breast. Once a breast tumor is detected, a number of diagnostic tests are performed to characterize the tumor and address the possibility of cancer. Often, doctors will perform a tissue biopsy–removing a small piece of tissue–to analyze the tumor. Doctors may choose from a range of core biopsy methods to investigate breast tumors.

Core Needle Biopsy

A core needble biopsy makes use of a thin needle to remove a small piece of a breast tumor. To perform a core biopsy, the doctor will first numb the patient’s breast with local anesthetic. He will then insert a needle through the skin and into the tumor, and the needle collects the biopsy sample. The doctor then pulls out the needle and collects the biopsy tissue for analysis. A number of tissue samples may be collected to test for the presence of cancerous cells in multiple parts of the tumor, as well as in the surrounding neighboring tissue. A core needle biopsy is minimally invasive, but may leave a small scar, according to VirtualCancerCenter.

Stereotactic Core Biopsy

Another type of bore breast biopsy used to collect tissue for analysis is a stereotactic core biopsy. Stereotectactic core biopsies can be used to biopsy tumors that are too small to be felt, and uses breast imaging technology to guide the needle into the tumor to collect tissue.

RadiologyInfo reports that before the biopsy, the patient will undergo a digital mammogram, which will take pictures of the breast. The mammography then uses the images taken from multiple angles to identify the location of the tumor within the breast. Once the tumor location has been identified, the biopsy is performed. The doctor numbs the breast, makes a small incision, inserts the needle and guides it into the tumor with assistance from mammography imaging. Additional X-rays are taken to confirm that the needle is at the the tumor site, and then the tissue sample is taken.

Large Core Surgical Biopsy

In some cases, a large portion of a breast tumor may be removed for analysis in a procedure called a large core surgical biopsy. It is commonly used for masses that are difficult to feel or microcalcifications within the breast. A large core surgical biopsy provides a large tissue sample for analysis and removes the entire tumor or lesion, reports Imaginis.

To perform a large core surgical biopsy, the doctor will numb the breast with local anesthetic, make an incision in the breast and insert a thick biopsy needle. The doctor then guides a wire into the lesion using stereotactic imaging, inserts a large biopsy needle into the lesion, and removes a piece of tissue. Once the tissue has been collected for analysis, the doctor closes the incision site with stitches. Patients who undergo a large core surgical biopsy will have a scar from the procedure.

About this Author

Louise Tremblay recently finished an M.Sc. in molecular and cellular biology in Ontario, Canada, with years of cancer research experience. She has experience writing articles and Web content on science, heath and fitness, diet and personal wellness.