Deciding Between Biopsies

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Firstly, not every lump or mammographic change merits a biopsy. Nearly all mammographic masses that look smooth and clearly outlined, for instance, are benign. Your doctor needs to thoughtfully weigh the findings from your physical exam and mammogram along with your background and your medical history before making a recommendation for a biopsy.

The main advantage of needle biopsy is that it allows a diagnosis to be made before any major surgery is done on the breast. If the biopsy result is negative, most patients will have avoided the more invasive surgical biopsy. A needle biopsy is much less invasive and relatively painless compared to surgical biopsy, and can provide much of the information about a tumor for the physician to formulate a treatment plan. However, it is important to keep in mind that a needle biopsy is slightly less accurate than surgical biopsy.

A surgical biopsy is the most accurate biopsy method that is able to provide complete information about tumors. It may also serve as a treatment and may be the only surgery needed to remove a tumor. As a surgical procedure, it is more painful, requires more time to heal and is associated with a greater risk of infection and bruising than a needle biopsy. The procedure may also the look and feel of the breast.

To do or not to do

Given the accuracy and ease of needle biopsy, many women undergo this procedure first. A surgical biopsy would only necessary if the results of a needle biopsy are in question.

Be in control!

No single solution is right for everyone. Each woman should consult with her doctors and her family, weigh the alternatives and decide what approach is appropriate. Being involved in the decision-making process can give a woman a sense of control over her body and her life.

In general, doctors feel it is wise to biopsy any distinct and persistent lump. When it comes to deciding between a needle biopsy and surgical biopsy, there are a number of benefits and risks that must be considered.