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Below is a table comparing Fine Needle Aspiration and Core Needle Biopsy (1) (2) (3).


Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)

Core Needle Biopsy (CNB)

Sample Removed Removes only a very small portion of the lesion Removes a small portion in most cases, occasionally removes the entire lesion
Needle Size 22-27 gauge 11-18 gauge
Pathology Type Cytopathology Histopathology
Interpretation Time Immediately Delayed
Diagnostic Abilities Limited ability to specifically diagnose benign lesions
No ability to differentiate between in situ and invasive breast cancer
Strong ability to specifically diagnose benign lesions.
Some ability to differentiate between in situ and invasive breast cancer.
Disadvantages Cannot be used for additional study More invasive, time consuming, expensive
Advantages Inexpensive, quick, readily available, and very safe Can be used for additional study and has more specific diagnostic abilities than FNA
Effectiveness Sensitivity: 75.8-98.7%
Specificity: 60-100%
Positive Predictive Value: 93.5-100%
Sensitivity: 91-99.6%%
Specificity: 98-100%
Positive Predictive Value: 100%

Watch a video about Sensitivity and Specificity of Medical Tests

References for this page:
  1. A Abati and A Simisir. Breast fine needle aspiration biopsy: Prevailing Recommendations and contemporary practices. Clinics in Laboratory Medicine. 2005; 25: 631-654. [PUBMED]
  2. ES de Paredes, TG Langer, J Cousins. Interventional Breast Procedures. Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology. 1998; September/October: 138-184. [PUBMED]
  3. B Chaiwun and P Thorner. Fine needle aspiration for evaluation of breast masses. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2007; 19: 48-55. [PUBMED]
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