If the doctor confirms that you have a breast lump or other area of concern, you ‘ll likely need testing to determine what’s causing the problem. To further evaluate a breast lump, the doctor may perform one or more of the following procedures:
- Fine-Needle Aspiration: During fine-needle aspiration – which may be done during an office visit – a thin, hollow needle is inserted into the lump and any fluid or tissue cells are removed (aspirated). The doctor may use ultrasound, a procedure that uses sound waves to create images of organs and tissues, to guide the needle placement and aspiration.
- If the lump contains non-bloody fluid, it’s most likely a benign cyst and will probably disappear with aspiration. If the lump contains bloody fluid, the fluid will be sent to a lab for analysis and you’ll likely need more testing to determine whether it’s cancer. Similarly, if the lump doesn’t contain fluid, you’ll likely need more testing to determine whether it’s cancer.
- Core Needle Biopsy
During a core needle biopsy, a larger needle than use with fine-needle aspiration is used to obtain a small, solid core of tissue. This procedure may be done in the office with ultrasound guidance if needed.
- Stereotactic Biopsy
This is another type of needle biopsy, in which mammography is used to pinpoint an abnormal area that shows up on a breast-imaging test but isn’t felt during a clinical exam or seen on ultrasound. This technique uses stereo images – images of the same area obtained from different angles – to locate the area of concern. Then a sample of breast tissue is removed through a hollow needle.
- Vacuum-Assisted Biopsy
During a vacuum-assisted biopsy, a small cut is made in the skin and a hollow probe connected to a vacuum is used to remove tissue from an abnormal area. This procedure may be done in the office with ultrasound guidance.
- Surgical Biopsy
With this type of biopsy, the entire breast lump, as well as some surrounding breast tissue, is removed for analysis (excisional biopsy). If the lump is too large to be removed easily, only part of the lump is removed (incisional biopsy). This is done at an outpatient surgery center and is a relatively quick procedure.
After any type of biopsy, the tissue sample is sent to a lab for analysis. Results are typically available within a week.