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Understanding the Results of Breast Biopsy: What Percentage of Breast Biopsies are Cancer Cells?

It's essential to understand breast biopsies because they can influence how breast cancer will be treated moving forward. It is crucial to keep in mind that catching breast cancer in its early stages requires early detection, which can be achieved through periodic checkups like mammography and self or clinical breast exams.

Women should always take an active role in their own healthcare and discuss any worries or issues they may have with their doctors.

breast cancer

Definition of Biopsy and What is a Breast Biopsy Used For

Breast biopsies are quick yet crucial part of medical procedures that allow doctors to determine whether a woman's breast area is cancerous or not. In addition, a small sample of the suspect tissue is taken and examined under a microscope to determine how it functions.

Depending on the size, location, and kind of suspicious area, there are various approaches to performing breast biopsies. While some breast biopsies are performed with a thin needle, some may call for a larger core needle or perhaps a minor operation.

The objective of all biopsies is to determine the state of the tissue under study with certainty. If a biopsy reveals that the tissue is malignant, this knowledge aids in determining the best course of action for additional treatments like surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy. Upon learning from the breast biopsy that the tissue is not malignant, the woman will feel relieved and be able to proceed with confidence.

Importance of breast biopsy in detecting breast cancer

A breast biopsy is a crucial step in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. In many cases, a breast biopsy is needed to confirm a suspicious finding on a mammogram or ultrasound. By examining a small sample of breast tissue, a biopsy can determine if the tissue is cancerous or benign, providing important information to guide further treatment.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer is key to a successful recovery since the disease is most treatable in its early stages. A biopsy can help identify breast cancer in its early stages when it is still small and has not spread to other parts of the body yet. This allows for prompt and effective treatment, which can significantly improve a woman's chances of survival.

Breast biopsies are useful diagnostic tools, but they can also assist doctors to identify the kind and aggressiveness of cancer by allowing them to customize treatment for each patient.

Overall, it provides vital information to guide treatment and improve outcomes, making it a critical part of breast cancer care.

breast cancer biopsy

What are the different kinds of breast biopsies? 5 Types of Breast Biopsies

Breast biopsies are procedures used to remove a small piece of tissue from the breast for examination under a microscope. There are several different types of biopsies, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The type of biopsy your doctor recommends will depend on several factors; including the size and location of the suspicious area, and your overall health.

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy

A fine, hollow needle is used in this brief, minimally invasive FNA Biopsy procedure to remove a small sample of fluid or tissue from the breast. A tiny amount of the substance is aspirated or sucked out into a syringe after the needle has been introduced through the skin and into the questionable spot.

It simply takes a few minutes to do this kind of biopsy, which is typically done in the doctor's office. A local anaesthetic is used throughout the treatment to numb the area so you won't experience much pain. An FNA biopsy has a relatively low risk of complications and the findings are often available in a few days.

Core Needle Biopsy

A core needle biopsy is similar to an FNA biopsy in that a small cylinder of breast tissue is removed using a bigger needle. A little, cylindrical piece of tissue is taken out of the suspicious location after the needle has been put through the skin.

This kind of biopsy is often carried out at a hospital or radiology facility, and it takes about 30 minutes to complete. You won't experience much pain because a local anaesthetic is used throughout the surgery.

A core needle biopsy has a relatively low risk of complications and findings are typically available in a few days. Core needle biopsy, as opposed to FNA biopsy, offers a larger tissue sample that can be used for a more precise diagnosis.

Stereotactic Biopsy

A mammography or x-ray is used to guide the biopsy needle to the location of the suspicious region during the stereotactic biopsy. This kind of biopsy is carried done in a radiology facility, and it takes about 30 minutes to complete.

The radiologist will use a mammography machine to take images of your breast while you are lying on a table. A little sample of tissue is taken from the suspicious location once the biopsy needle has been introduced through the skin.

You won't experience much pain because a local anaesthetic is used throughout the surgery.

A stereotactic biopsy often yields results in a few days, and the technique carries a low risk of complications. Masses that cannot be felt or are difficult to see on an ultrasound benefit most with stereotactic biopsy.

Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy

With an ultrasound-guided biopsy, the biopsy needle is also guided to the location of the questionable spot. This kind of biopsy is carried done in a radiology facility, and it takes about 30 minutes to complete.

The radiologist will create images of your breast using an ultrasound machine while you are lying on an examination table. A little sample of tissue is taken from the suspicious location once the biopsy needle has been introduced through the skin.

You won't experience much pain because a local anaesthetic is used throughout the surgery.

An ultrasound-guided biopsy has a relatively low risk of complications and findings are often available in a few days. For masses that are challenging to see on mammography, the ultrasound-guided biopsy is especially helpful.

Surgical Breast Biopsy

A surgical biopsy is a more complicated process that involves removing the entire suspicious area or a piece of it. This kind of biopsy is carried out at a hospital or an outpatient surgery facility, and it takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

Due to the fact that the treatment is performed under general anesthesia, you will be unconscious. The entire suspicious area or a piece of it is removed by the surgeon after making a small incision in the skin. The tissue is subsequently taken to a lab for analysis.

When the results of other types of biopsies are unclear or a bigger sample of tissue is required for a precise diagnosis, a surgical biopsy is typically performed.

In conclusion, each type of breast biopsy has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the best type of biopsy for you will depend on your individual circumstances and the type and size of the suspicious area. Your doctor will help you determine the best type of biopsy for you based on your medical history, the results of your mammogram or ultrasound, and the size and location of the suspicious area.

Don't forget! Regardless of the type of biopsy you have, it's important to remember that the goal of the biopsy is to provide an accurate diagnosis so that appropriate treatment can be started as soon as possible.

breast biopsy

Results of Breast Biopsy

1. Benign (not cancerous)

Breast biopsies can provide benign results, indicating that the tissue sampled during the biopsy was not cancerous. This is wonderful news because it implies you won't require any more medical treatment. To ensure that the area is still benign, your doctor could advise periodic examinations or testing.

2. Cancerous

You have breast cancer if the results of your breast biopsy are cancerous. This can be scary for you, but don’t forget that early diagnosis can have a lot of positive impacts on your progress. Your doctor will go over the next steps with you, including possible more tests to assess the cancer's stage and possible treatments.

Depending on the precise type of breast cancer you have, your treatment may also include hormone therapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy in addition to surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.

3. Atypical

If the results of your breast biopsy are atypical, it means that the tissue sample taken during the biopsy contains some abnormal cells, but it's not clear if these cells are cancerous. Your doctor may recommend additional tests or a repeat biopsy to help determine the diagnosis.

Atypical results can be stressful, but it's important to remember that not all atypical results lead to a cancer diagnosis. With proper monitoring and follow-up, many women with atypical results go on to live healthy lives without cancer.

What percentage of breast biopsies are cancer cells?

Routine screening and self-examination are important methods for detecting breast abnormalities, furthermore, mammography is widely used for this purpose around the world. If a suspicious finding is detected, a biopsy may be recommended for a definitive diagnosis. Approximately 20% of the over one million biopsies performed annually result in a diagnosis of breast cancer.

results of breast biopsy

Factors Affecting the Result of a Breast Biopsy

There can be many factors that can affect the results of breast biopsy and might increase the risk of getting breast cancer such as age, family history, and genetics.


As you get older, your risk of getting breast cancer also increases. Therefore, it's crucial to be cautious when performing self-breast inspections and undergoing frequent mammography tests.

If you are older than 50 or have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor could advise more frequent screens or biopsies. Additionally, certain hormonal changes you might experience after menopause may potentially contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer because they can make breast tissue denser and more difficult to see on mammography, thus, making it harder to identify any changes or abnormalities.

As Triwi, we always try to encourage you to take charge of your breast health as you age and to speak with your doctor about the most appropriate schedule for screening and biopsies because of these reasons.

Family History

This is one of the crucial factors you might take into consideration because having a family member with breast cancer might significantly raise your own chance of getting the illness. Your doctor might start scheduling screenings and biopsies earlier in life and/or more regularly if you have a first-degree family (such as your mother, sister, or grandmother) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

If you want to find out whether you have a higher chance of getting breast cancer because of a genetic mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2, genetic testing as an option can be advised for you.

Furthermore, your doctor could ask to do more frequent screenings and biopsies if it is discovered that you have certain mutations in order to keep an eye out for any changes or abnormalities. In the meantime, you should start getting used to your body to detect any suspicious tissue or breast abnormalities by performing breast examinations regularly.


Just like family history, the occurrence of breast cancer can be significantly influenced by genetics. If abnormalities like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are detected in your genetics, your doctor can advise genetic testing to find out if you have the mutation or if there is a family history of certain mutations because these abnormalities are usually linked with breast and ovarian cancer.

You can schedule more frequent screens and biopsies if it is determined that you have a genetic mutation so your doctor can keep an eye out for any changes.

Additionally, preventive (preventative) surgery to remove the breasts or ovaries may be an option for women with genetic mutations in order to lower their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.

complications of breast biopsies

What are the possible risks and complications of breast biopsies?

Even though it is rare, there could be some complications and risks of breast biopsies.

Pain or Discomfort

During the biopsy, it is possible that you may experience some pain, discomfort and stress especially if the biopsy is done using a needle. Your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter pain medication before the procedure to help manage any discomfort.

Bleeding or Bruising

There could be slight bleeding, bruising or scarring after breast biopsy if the procedure is a core needle biopsy or fine needle aspiration.

Misdiognose and Need for Repeat Biopsy

Even though these complications are rare, in some cases results can come back falsely positive or the sample might not be properly taken to perform an examination on it.

Why should someone need a breast biopsy?

Breast biopsies can be necessary to perform depending on several things such as:

  • Suspicious findings on mammogram or ultrasound

  • Physical symptoms like a lump or suspicious tissue on the breast

  • Family history or genetics

Self breast checks can help detect potential breast cancer early, which helps with the treatment tremendously. But unfortunately many women feel lost during these exams. Don't worry, Triwi is here to help!

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