Last Modified: November 11, 2002
Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
What are the different ways to get a sample of my breast lump?
Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
When an abnormality is found on screening mammography, the next step is to determine whether or not the abnormality is malignant (cancer). There are a number of different ways to obtain a sample of tissue for the pathologist to make this determination. Often, the physician cannot feel such abnormalities, and so, the biopsy must be guided by some form of radiologic imaging. Obtaining a small sample of tissue (core biopsy or aspiration cytology) is sometimes sufficient to determine if the abnormality is benign or malignant, and allows the treating doctors to better plan the most appropriate treatment. Doing a lumpectomy may be necessary when more tissue needs to be obtained or when there is a likely or known cancer in the breast.
Often, there are different ways that can be used to evaluate a breast abnormality, and no single way is best for all situations. Physician judgment on how best to do such an evaluation is necessary to design the approach for the individual patient.