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Breast biopsy results are usually available within one to two business days. A post-biopsy appointment will be made to evaluate the biopsy site and discuss results. Your referring physician will also be informed of the biopsy results. The pathology report helps physicians to determine which treatment options are best for the individual patient. Patients may ask for a copy of the pathology report to review or for second opinion consultation.

The pathology report varies, but generally includes information about the following:

  • Diagnosis – for example DCIS, early breast cancer, invasive breast cancer, etc.
  • Size and location of the cancer – the size and location of the cancer is an important component in determining what treatment options are best.
  • Surgical margin – after a surgical biopsy or breast surgery, the surgeon removes the cancer and some healthy surrounding tissue. The healthy breast tissue is called the surgical margin. If there are no cancer cells in the healthy surrounding tissue, it’s likely that all of the cancer was removed. In this case, the surgical margin is said to be “clear.” If there are several cancer cells in the healthy surrounding tissue, it is likely that not all the cancer was removed, the surgical margins is said to be “involved.” In this case, the patient may need additional surgery.
  • Hormone receptor status – the pathology report may indicate whether or not the cancer cells have hormone receptors. If the cancer is hormone receptor positive, this means the growth of the cancer is affected by hormones. This will help physicians to determine whether hormonal therapy may be beneficial as part of the patient’s treatment protocol.
  • Lymph node status – the pathology report also indicates whether there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes. This will affect whether systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy are recommended.

Hoag Cancer Center offers a special class, “Understanding Your Pathology Report” as part of its Breast Cancer Educational Series.