Your doctor has recommended that you undergo a breast biopsy procedure - or lumpectomy. But what does that actually mean?
Biopsy is a general term which simply means "the removal of tissue for microscopic examination."
Your doctor intends to remove tissue from the breast - not because you're necessarily ill - but because breast biopsy is a very accurate method for analyzing breast tissue.
Because it provides such accurate diagnostic information, breast biopsy is an important diagnostic tool in the fight against breast cancer.
In your case, you have lump in your breast which is too small to be felt by touch.
Your radiologist detected this abnormality while reviewing your recent mammogram - or breast x-ray. Let's take a moment to
look at the reasons why lumps form in breast tissue.
The breast is made of layers of skin, fat and breast tissue - all of which overlay the pectoralis muscle. Breast tissue itself is made up of a network of tiny milk-carrying ducts and there are three ways in which a lump can form among them.
Most women experience periodic changes to their breasts. Cysts are some of the most common kinds of tissues that can grow large enough to be felt and to cause tenderness. Cysts often grow and then shrink without any medical intervention.
A second kind of lump is caused by changes in breast tissue triggered by the growth of a cyst. Even after the cyst itself has gone away, it can leave fibrous tissue behind. This scar tissue can often be large enough to be felt.
The third kind of growth is a tumor. Tumors can be either benign or cancerous and it is concern about this type of growth that has lead your doctor to recommend breast biopsy.
Before surgery, you will be taken to a radiology lab. There, the radiologist will inject a small amount of anesthetic in order to numb your breast.
Then, using your last mammogram as a guide, the radiologist will insert a thin wire into your breast, moving the end of it towards the area of abnormality. This wire will serve as a pointer for the surgeon during your operation.
The radiologist will perform another mammogram in order to verify that the wire has been placed correctly. It is possible that the wire will have to be moved or repositioned - and a mammogram taken once again.
You will then be transferred to the operating table.
Your doctor will scrub thoroughly and will apply an antiseptic solution to the skin around the area where the incision will be made.
Then, the doctor will place a sterile drape or towels around the operative site and will inject a local anesthetic. This may sting a bit, but your breast will quickly begin to feel numb. Usually, the surgeon will inject more than one spot - in order to make sure that the entire area is thoroughly numb.
After allowing a few minutes for the anesthetic to take effect, the surgeon will make a small incision.
Once the incision has been made, your doctor will begin cutting along the wire, moving towards the abnormality located at the end. You will feel some tugging and pulling - but you should not feel any sharp pain. If you do, please tell the doctor and you will be given more anesthetic.
Once the specimen is removed, the doctor may have it x-rayed in order to determine whether or not the correct tissue has been removed. Very rarely, the doctor may decide, based on this x-ray, to remove additional tissue.
Your doctor and nurse will remove the guide wire and close the skin over the incision as neatly and as cosmetically as they are able.
Finally, a sterile dressing is applied.
Your specimen will be sent immediately to a lab for microscopic analysis. Your doctor will tell you when to expect result from those tests.