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Who Performs Breast Biopsy?

Breast biopsy is usually performed by surgeons or radiologists. Both surgeons and radiologists have medical doctorates (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) degrees and advanced training in their areas of expertise. Radiologists should be certified by the American Board of Radiology, and surgeons should be certified by the American Board of Surgery. Breast surgeons are often members of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. Radiologists may be members of the Society of Breast Imaging.


Radiologists who specialize in breast imaging interpret mammograms, and often interpret the results of other breast imaging tests such as ultrasound. Some radiologists also perform biopsies on patients. These "interventional" radiologists often perform fine needle aspiration (FNA), core needle, or vacuum-assisted breast biopsy in outpatient settings.

For surgical biopsy, a radiologist will often assist in the procedure by first placing a needle into the breast using wire localization (also called needle localization) and then transferring the patient to the operating room where a surgeon will perform the open surgical breast biopsy.


Open surgical biopsy (both excisional and incisional) are usually performed by surgeons rather than radiologists. Surgical biopsies may be performed by either general surgeons or breast surgeons. Surgeons may also perform fine needle aspiration (FNA), core needle biopsy, and other methods of biopsy such as large core biopsy (ABBI) or vacuum-assisted biopsy.


Once the radiologist or surgeon has removed the breast tissue samples during biopsy, the samples will be taken to the pathology laboratory for diagnosis. A pathologist is a physician who analyzes cells and tissues under a microscope to determine whether they are malignant (cancerous), pre-cancerous, benign (non-cancerous). In addition to diagnosing cancer, the pathologist will analyze specific characteristics of the cancer and eventually help assign a stage and grade to the breast cancer. These factors will help determine the patient’s treatment and prognosis (expected outcome). Click here for more information on the breast pathology report.

Updated: September 18, 2007