Sometimes it is necessary to take a tissue biopsy from the breast to fully assess a specific area. Biopsies can be broadly categorised by the type of needle used in the test; either a fine needle aspirate or a tissue core biopsy. The fine needle aspirate or FNA uses a needle like the one you may have seen when undergoing a simple blood test. The aim of this test is to extract some cells from the area in question which are then examined under a microscope by a specialist doctor called a cytopathologist. A core biopsy uses a slightly larger needle and, of course, some local anaesthetic. You may hear a clicking sound from the needle device used as it has an integral spring mechanism. This test collects a larger sample of tissue which is then processed and examined under a microscope, again by a specialist known as a histopathologist.
Both of these biopsies can be undertaken with or without image guidance (such as an ultrasound exam). The main risk associated with the tests is bruising and simple painkillers such as paracetamol can be useful following the test.
All test results are discussed between specialist consultants to ensure there is concordance between the clinical exam, radiological imaging and biopsy finding. All members of this multidisciplinary team must agree on an outcome before the diagnosis is signed off which gives you the most accurate overall test outcome.