Imaging tests can help locate a breast mass, but they cannot confirm a breast cancer diagnosis. This is done during a biopsy to remove cells or tissue samples for laboratory testing. There are three main types of biopsies:
Fine needle aspiration biopsy involves inserting a very thin needle into the suspicious area to withdraw cells. Ultrasound may be used to guide the needle if the lump cannot be easily located.
A core needle biopsy uses a slightly larger needle to remove three to five small cylinders of tissue from the breast abnormality. Larger core biopsies can be performed using suction to remove tissue samples.
Surgery may be recommended to remove all or part of a lump for examination. During an incisional biopsy, a sample is removed from the abnormal area. An excisional biopsy involves removing the entire mass as well as a surrounding margin of normal tissue.
If cancer cells are found after a biopsy, test results can determine the cancer type and whether it is invasive (likely to spread) or in situ (localized). Invasive cancers are assigned a grade based on how closely the sample resembles normal tissue and
the likelihood the cancer will grow and spread. An estrogen and progesterone receptor test can determine whether hormone therapy may help stop the cancer from growing. A human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 test can measure a growth factor protein
that may cause cancer cells to spread more aggressively.
For more information about breast cancer, talk with your doctor or visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org.
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