January 8, 2010, Newsletter Issue #113: Fine Needle Aspiration Breast Biopsy vs. Core Needle Breast Biopsy

Tip of the Week

If you or your doctor discovers a lump in your breast, your doctor may suggest a fine needle aspiration breast biopsy or a core needle breast biopsy to determine whether or not it is cancerous. The fine needle aspiration biopsy is less invasive, because the needle used is thinner than one used to draw blood. For this biopsy, your doctor will clean the area of your breast nearest to the suspicious lump with an alcohol swab and insert a fine needle into the area to retrieve the cells for examination. He may or may not numb you with a local anesthetic; but request it if you have a lower tolerance for discomfort. For a core needle biopsy, the doctor will perform an ultrasound on your breast with an ultrasound wand to locate the exact spot of the lump, a local anesthetic will be given, and the needle will be inserted into the lump (guided by pictures on the ultrasound screen). The core needle is big enough to actually extract tissue, but will not leave a scar. It may seem that the fine needle aspiration is the best way to go insofar as comfort, but this procedure is sometimes less accurate because the needle is extracting from nearby breast tissue and not directly from the lump. Also, if cells extracted from the fine needle aspiration even look suspicious, it is likely that your doctor will order a second, more invasive biopsy for a more accurate diagnosis.

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