A biopsy is a procedure where a sample of tissue is removed from the body and examined under a microscope by a pathologist to help in making a diagnosis.
Whilst many scans and X-ray tests give us a very clear understanding of a patients likely diagnosis, the most accurate way of coming to a diagnosis is often to look at a piece of tissue from an area where a patient is experiencing symptoms or where an abnormality has been found on a scan.
WHAT DOES THE PROCEDURE ENTAIL?
Most biopsies which are undertaken in patients having breast investigations can be done in the X-ray department by a specialist breast radiologist and no longer routinely involve having an operation. The breast skin overlying the area to be biopsied is injected with local anaesthetic to leave it temporarily numb and make the procedure more comfortable. The radiologist can then carry out the biopsy, often using an ultrasound machine to guide the biopsy. Gentle pressure is then applied to this area for a few minutes to minimise bruising, and a dressing can be applied.
Occasionally, if the area which needs to be biopsied is not amenable to a biopsy in the X-ray department then a surgical biopsy may be recommended. This is often done with the patient asleep under a general anaesthetic in the operating theatre, but can often be done as a day case procedure.
Results from a breast biopsy may take anywhere from two to seven days to come back depending upon the nature of the biopsy. I will offer all patients who undergo a biopsy a further appointment to discuss the results of their biopsy, and ensure that all biopsy results are discussed within the breast cancer MDT meeting.
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