Breast cancer is suspected when a lump or thickening in a breast is felt during breast self-examination. Other symptoms that may lead to suspicion are lump in the armpit area, scaly skin on the breast, nipple discharges other than milk, nipple retraction or nipple inversion, reddening of breast skin, change in size or shape of breast, nipple itching and breast pain. These symptoms do not always mean that there is cancer; but once any of these is detected, the person is strongly recommended to visit a doctor for examination. A doctor will confirm the presence of a lump by performing breast biopsy.
This is the procedure where a sample tissue from the suspicious lump is taken. This can be done either by surgical (invasive) or non-surgical (non-invasive) means. In surgical biopsy, sample tissues are taken after an incision is made on the skin. Sometimes, if the lump is small, the entire lump may be removed.
Non-surgical procedures include fine needle aspiration biopsy, core needle biopsy and vacuum-assisted breast biopsy. Both fine needle aspiration biopsy and core needle biopsy employ the use of a needle to collect sample tissues. The needle used in core needle biopsy is however thicker and hallow.
A Breast biopsy can be done in a clinic or a hospital, depending on the size of the growth to be examined. For surgical procedures, local anesthesia or general anesthesia may be used. For non-surgical procedures, anesthesia may not be needed. With or without anesthesia, patients may feel little to no pain at all. Pain or discomfort can be lessened by over-the-counter pain relievers.