Permanent & Frozen Sections

A pathologist prepares the biopsied tissue for examination via a "frozen section," (a procedure that takes about 30 minutes), and a "permanent section," (a procedure that takes 2 to 3 days). In brief, the frozen section is a quick way of determining whether or not cancer is present in the tissue. The permanent section is the most accurate method.

The Frozen Section
The frozen section is performed while the patient is in the operating room and is requested and performed if it will change the intraoperative management of your breast disease.

Many lesions, which are small or are found by needle localization, are often best served by the permanent section. The purpose is to obtain a correct final answer and avoid a quick, potentially inaccurate, answer. 

The Permanent Section
In the permanent section process, the tissue is treated by a series of chemical solutions that give a high quality slide. The advantage of this process is that it is more accurate and allows the pathologist to make a more correct diagnosis. Permanent sections are always done, even if the frozen section was previously performed.

If your lump is cancerous, estrogen and progesterone receptor assay tests will be performed as well as testing for Her-2-neu expression. These tests will determine whether treatment with anti-estrogen agents may benefit you. The cancer is also graded on a microscopic level (Grade I, II, III) to give your physicians an estimate of the aggressiveness of the tumor.