When breast cancer is removed surgically during the procedure of a surgical biopsy or mastectomy the removed tissue is sent to an expert pathologist. The pathologist saves breast cancer tissue and analyzes them using the microscope. In the upcoming paragraphs, you are going to learn more about pathology examinations.
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Paraffin fixed with formalin embedded in the tissue:
Within the U.S., the standard method of preserving a tissue sample is to use embedded paraffin fixed with formalin. The sample is treated using an ingredient known as formalin which makes the tissue harder and keeps it from deteriorating in the course of time. Then small slices are encased in paraffin blocks (wax).
Sometimes, the biopsy specimen is stored in the pathology laboratory during the procedure of a surgical biopsy.
Assessing margins during surgery:
The pathologist will examine small portions of the frozen specimen under a microscope in order to evaluate the margins (to determine how close the cancerous cells are to the edge of the specimen) during the procedure. If cancerous cells are present on the margins, further tissue can be removed in the same operation.
Sometimes, a surgical biopsy (instead of the core needle biopsy) is performed to determine whether or not there's cancer within the breast. In the course of the surgery, the pathologist can examine the frozen tissue sections containing cancerous cells.
While a frozen portion will allow a quick examination of the sample of tissue but it's not always an accurate outcome. The results of a frozen sample should always be confirmed using other methods of diagnosis. It can take a few days.