What is a Tissue Biopsy?

Advccates for Breast Cancer - South Africa - Types of Biopsies

One of the things that could happen as part of the breast cancer diagnosis process is that the doctor may ask for a tissue biopsy.

‘Tissue‘ is one of those words that can be confusing, especially if English is not your first language. In medical terms, tissue is the name given to a group of cells that perform the same function.

For a biopsy, a small sample of tissue will be taken from your body so that it can be examined more closely, deeply and thoroughly. (In many cases, an operation isn’t needed for a sample to be taken.)

The  type of tissue that needs to be removed and where it is situated in your breast will determine what type of biopsy you will need.


  1. The doctor may use a fine needle attached to a syringe (see below) to remove a small amount of tissue from the suspicious area – called fine needle aspiration. (The needle is so thin that you’ll very little.)Advocates for Breast Cancer - South Africa - fine needle aspiration - FNA
  2.  If the doctor needs a larger amount of tissue, a core needle biopsy may be done which uses a fatter, hollow needle. As a result, this type of biopsy is somewhat more paintful, but be assured the area will be numbed before insertion of the needle. Whilst tenderness and/bruising typically occur after the procedure, no scarring occurs.
  3. Sometimes a surgical biopsy may be needed which can be done under either local or general anaesthetic, depending on where in the breast the lump actually is. (A whole lump can sometimes be removed for examination.)

TAKEAWAY: What happens to the tissue after it’s been removed from the breast? We found this fantastic explanation for you: The Journey of a Tissue Biopsy!

***ALSO: Here is a Biopsy FACT SHEET to download and print!



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