Know about breast lumps and biopsy

It is important that you are familiar with your breasts and check them regularly, so if a lump does develop, you are able to identify and acknowledge the irregularity easily. Although finding a lump in your breast and the thought of a biopsy may be worrying at first, it is worth knowing that 80 per cent of women who undergo a biopsy do not have breast cancer. Having said that, it is important to see your doctor if you do detect an abnormality.

When consulting your doctor, firstly they will ask for your medical history. After this, the doctor may ask your permission to physically examine your breast and will always ask if you’d like a nurse present. Following this, they may further examine the affected area using a non-invasive imaging technique such as ultrasound, MRI or mammogram (X-ray). These tests can be sufficient in aiding a doctor with their diagnosis; however, if still unsure, they may opt to perform a breast biopsy.

It is important to see your doctor if you do detect an abnormality

You may be feeling that you lack control of what is going on within your body, but you can control what happens to it. Despite doctors having the professional authority to choose the best course of action for you, there is nothing from stopping you from asking as many questions as you want and exploring other options.

As a potential biopsy patient, you have a choice in your procedure and it is important to weigh up the different procedures available to you. With this in mind, here is a little more information about the different types of breast biopsy available, which you can talk about further with your doctor, if you wish.


A breast biopsy is a diagnostic test, which involves the removal of a small sample of breast tissue from a suspicious area. This is then sent off to be examined in a lab by a pathologist. The main reason a breast biopsy is performed is to determine whether or not a breast lump is cancerous. However, a biopsy may also be used to remove a breast lump that has already been shown to be benign.

While physical examinations and imaging techniques are useful when choosing the best course of treatment for you, a biopsy is the only procedure that can definitely determine whether or not a breast lump is cancerous.

There are different types of breast biopsies available; which biopsy your doctor chooses to proceed with will depend on your condition, symptoms and medical history. Breast biopsies fall into two categories of surgical or needle.


During a surgical biopsy, a small incision is made in the breast and the lump is partially or fully removed for examination. This is called an incisional biopsy. Another type of biopsy is performed using a needle and the doctor may use ultrasound, MRI or a mammogram to assist in the location of the area to be sampled. All biopsies are performed under local anaesthesia to minimise discomfort.

Surgical biopsies are more invasive than needle biopsies and are used to remove a larger sample of tissue, which may help pathology in diagnosis. It is a very routine procedure; however there are small risks involved and the procedure may leave a small scar.

Nowadays, there are less invasive options, such as vacuum assisted biopsy or VAB, available to most women in the form of needle biopsies that are safe, reliable, accurate, fast and can be performed under local anaesthesia.

Visit to find out more about breast pathology and diagnostics. The website includes a full explanation of the biopsy process, most frequent questions and answers, videos and personal stories of women who have benefitted from it