What's a breast biopsy like? What medical language is involved?
July 14, 2014 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I will be interpreting at a breast biopsy procedure and want to prepare ahead of time, so I'd like to compile a list of vocabulary as well as have a general idea of what happens during the procedure.

I will be interpreting at a breast biopsy procedure and want to prepare ahead of time, so I'd like to compile a list of vocabulary as well as have a general idea of what happens during the procedure.

What would be most helpful for me to know is:

What questions will the doctor ask? What will the doctor say?

What happens and what is the general procedure and experience?

What is some general vocabulary surrounding this procedure and/or related conditions?

Thanks for helping me with my "homework", AskMe!
posted by bearette to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
This is probably more than you need, but these people have been trying to help people going through breast procedures not have it be so scary/confusing. They have made a (long) list of vocabulary words (some of which deal with cancer and may be more than you need) to assist people in understanding what is going to happen. This is their entry for biopsy.

A breast biopsy is a procedure to cut out small amount of tissue from an area of concern in the breast. The tissue sample is examined by a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing disease) to see whether or not cancer cells are present. If cancer is present, the pathologist can then look at the cancer’s characteristics. The biopsy findings will be indicated in a pathology report. Different types of biopsies are: fine needle aspiration biopsy, core needle biopsy, incisional biopsy (removal of a piece of tumor), and excisional biopsy (removal of the entire mass or tumor).
This page on patient education has a few fact sheets about breast biopsies in English, Amharic, Somali and Tigrinya that can also help you.

I have not had one myself but have had family members who have been through it. In my experience the procedure itself, while uncomfortable, is less of an issue than all the "DO I HAVE CANCER? WHEN WILL I KNOW?" questions going through the head of the patient. And the big deal is that the biopsy gets sent away, you do not get results/info at that time. There will also be paperwork to sign that you may have to interpret unless they can offer them in the language of the patient.
posted by jessamyn at 7:11 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm guessing that you are doing this for a friend or family member who doesn't speak the language of the medical staff. The medical facility might be able to provide a professional medical interpreter, who is not only fluent in both languages but is also familiar with the medical vocabulary in both languages and the experience of interpreting for such procedures. Can you get in touch with the clinic/office/hospital and request an interpreter? It is awesome that you are providing this assistance but in this moment you and the patient may be happier with a professional.
posted by telegraph at 8:30 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, but I am the professional :). I haven't interpreted for a breast biopsy before, so trying to be as prepared as possible.
posted by bearette at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2014

The doctor should not be using incomprehensible medical language to the patient. If they use a word you don't understand, ask them what they mean same as you would if you were the patient.

I do biopsies, not breast biopsies but pretty similar. People have answered most of your questions, but the kind of words I would be using are 'ultrasound', 'local anaesthetic to numb the skin', 'special needle to take a little piece of breast/tumour', 'bruising' and possibly 'stitch'. Nothing too complex.
posted by tinkletown at 10:17 AM on July 14, 2014

Forgot to mention, I always demo the biopsy needle first because it makes an almighty twang when it triggers (like it has broken. It hasn't broken, it is just very loud). Please warn the patient how loud it is when the doctor asks you to - it is always very obvious when the interpreter hasn't, because the patient looks absolutely terrified.
posted by tinkletown at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2014

I had a breast biopsy about a year and a half ago after my family doctor found a lump during a checkup, and an ultrasound couldn't confirm if it was benign (it did turn out to be benign). This was at a hospital in Toronto. Here's what the experience/communication was like from my perspective:

1. The technician/assistant asked where the lump was. I was actually never able to find it or feel it myself so could only answer vaguely. Eventually the assistant found it herself through feel. They did an ultrasound and pointed out the lump to me on the screen.

2. At this point the doctor came in. She told me that based on the ultrasound, the lump was almost certainly benign but that they were doing a biopsy just to be certain.

3. She explained that they would numb the area, stick the needle in, that there would be a noise/feeling of pressure and a chunk of tissue would be removed. They told me it would be uncomfortable and that I'd probably feel some pain/soreness later when the anesthetic wore off.

4. The experience of feeling a large needle rooting around in my breast was, indeed, uncomfortable. At the crucial moment there was a discomfiting "ker-chunk" sound and a feeling similar to being stabbed with a pen. When I glanced down I saw blood, which was mildly upsetting.

5. They bandaged me up and assured me that the procedure wouldn't leave a mark on my skin (it did, actually, and I still have it). Afterward, they also did a mammogram on both breasts.

6. I heard the results two weeks later from my family doctor. They told me to get a follow-up ultrasound in 6 months.
posted by beatrice rex at 10:41 AM on July 14, 2014

About four years ago I went through pretty much what Beatrice described above, the biopsy itself didn't hurt very much, and I was only sore for a couple of days after, minor discomfort. I got my results a couple of days later, big relief, benign.

The patient will need to know how to find out her results, you'll need to relay them to her, I assume. If they are upsetting will you be able to help her set up future appointments?
posted by mareli at 2:01 PM on July 14, 2014

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