Breast biopsy

A breast biopsy is a test in which either tissue or cells are taken from inside a breast lump and then sent for detailed examination in the pathology laboratory.


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What is it for?

Detailed examination for breast lumps

Treatment overview

Cancerous cells look different from normal tissue and this can confirm whether the lump is breast cancer, or whether it is a benign growth, such as a harmless, fluid-filled breast cyst.

At The London Clinic, we offer a range of different breast biopsy techniques.

Your breast surgeon will advise you which is the most suitable in your case.

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Breast biopsy techniques

Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

Your radiologist or surgeon will use a very thin needle to extract cells from a breast lump, usually without any anaesthetic.

This type of breast biopsy is usually performed to remove fluid from a painful cyst to relieve symptoms but it can also be used to take a sample of cells from a solid mass for diagnosis.

These may be enough to confirm that the lump is a harmless cyst but, if not, you may need a follow-up test such as a core needle biopsy or a vacuum assisted breast biopsy.

Core needle biopsy

This type of breast biopsy is used to examine the cells in a more substantial sample of breast tissue.

A radiologist or your breast surgeon will use a hollow needle to remove samples from a breast lump after the surrounding area has been numbed with local anaesthetic.

Ultrasound is often used to help position the needle accurately. A series of samples, each about the size of a grain of rice, will be taken. These are sent to a histopathologist to be analysed to find out if cancer cells are present.

Stereotactic breast biopsy

This specific type of breast biopsy may be required if a mammogram shows a breast abnormality such as:

  • Microcalcifications that can be seen on your mammogram, but cannot be felt or seen on an ultrasound
  • Distortion in the structure of the breast tissue that cannot be easily explained
  • Abnormal tissue change in an area of the breast
  • New calcium deposits at a previous surgery site

During the procedure, one of our expert radiologists will use two-dimensional X-ray images produced at various angles to guide a mechanised needle to remove the tissue sample.

A stereotactic breast biopsy takes about an hour and you will need to have a local anaesthetic.

Vacuum assisted breast biopsy

The ATEC Vacuum Assisted Biopsy system™ allows suspicious areas of calcification to be removed for biopsy under local anaesthetic.

This type of breast biopsy produces even larger tissue samples than core needle biopsy, allowing our histopathologists to interpret your results more accurately.

When you have this test, a biopsy needle is connected to a console and inserted into the breast lump.

An aperture in the needle opens and a vacuum gently pulls on the targeted tissue while a small rotating cutting system removes it.

Small non-cancerous breast masses can sometimes be completely removed in this way, which can avoid the need for an operation under general anaesthetic.

Usually there is minimal scarring and no stitches are needed.

Why choose The London Clinic

Excellence in one place

We operate as teams of experts with world-class resources dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of medical care. You are surrounded by the latest treatments and advice with everything you need to get back to your best health.

Personal care, every time

Exceptional patient care is a way of life for us. Our nurses, clinicians and support teams are dedicated to the care of a very small number of patients, so have more time for you. They’ll be with you every step of the way, tailoring your care around you and giving the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing you’re in the best hands.

Effortlessly simple

We work together as one to guide you through each step of your experience, with complexities unravelled and answers readily to hand. Your personal treatment plan will be laid out for you, with all the details taken care of so you can focus on you.

What's included in your package?

Choosing The London Clinic means your treatment plan will be laid out for you, with all the details taken care of so you can focus on you.


Your treatment package will include:

  • Enhanced pre-admission assessment
  • Your treatment with our complete care team at your fingertips
  • Personalised aftercare and follow-up

We want you to be in control of your health. That’s why we also offer optional services such as comprehensive recovery packages and extra touches for you to choose from during your stay with us.

How to pay

  • You can use private medical insurance (PMI) to access this treatment. We work with all major PMI providers in the UK and many internationally
  • You can pay for yourself (self-pay)
  • If you’re paying for yourself, we have finance options available with Chrysalis

When we say personalised health care, we mean it

We offer a wide range of treatments and diagnostic tests to support all concerns. So, if you don’t see what you’re looking for here, please get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you.