Surgical Breast Biopsy

A surgical breast biopsy is performed to remove a sample of tissue from a solid mass to determine whether it is cancerous or noncancerous.

A surgical breast biopsy may be performed after abnormalities have been detected during a self-exam, or after a mammogram or other imaging test has been performed. There are two types of surgical biopsies available for removal of suspicious tissue and its subsequent microscopic examination; one is incisional and the other is excisional.

Benefits of Surgical Breast Biopsy

Surgical breast biopsy removes the largest tissue sample, and is the most accurate, of all biopsy types. It allows abnormal breast tissue to be examined in great detail to determine whether it is cancerous or noncancerous.

In addition to its diagnostic purpose, a surgical biopsy can remove abnormalities that are found during the procedure, possibly eliminating the need for additional surgery. Removal through biopsy can also save money by combining diagnosis and treatment in one simple procedure.

Types of Surgical Breast Biopsies

In a surgical (open) biopsy, the patient is given local anesthesia and sedation, and the surgeon makes a 1- to 2-inch incision in the breast in order to remove either some or all of the tissue in question. There are two types of surgical biopsies:

Incisional Biopsy

In an incisional biopsy, only part of the abnormal tissue is removed for examination. An incisional biopsy is typically used for large abnormalities.

Excisional Biopsy

In an excisional biopsy, the entire abnormality and a margin of tissue surrounding it are removed for examination. Excisional biopsies are usually performed on small abnormalities.

In both biopsy types, the incisions are closed using sutures, which may or may not be absorbable.

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