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Breast Biopsy

Breast biopsy is a diagnostic tool used to determine the structure and composition of breast tissue. It’s the only way to know for sure whether cancer is present in a lump or mammographic abnormality. Biopsy allows specialized radiologists to remove breast tissue, which is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist, who specializes in the characteristics of disease in tissue.

Getting the answers.

When a healthcare provider recommends a breast biopsy, it’s perfectly normal be anxious. Our experienced, fellowship-trained mammographers and caring technologists understand that it’s a stressful experience, and we do our best to answer all of your questions and provide as much information as possible. Try to keep in mind that biopsy doesn’t always confirm cancer—quite often it proves just the opposite.

Since 2007, our Breast Imaging Center has been recognized by the American College of Radiology (ACR) as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. This means we offer a complete array of breast care services that have been thoroughly evaluated for quality. Our state-of-the-art equipment ensures a safe and accurate exam, while our specialized team keeps you comfortable and provides unparalleled care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Only a small sampling of tissue from the suspicious area will be taken.

According to statistics, more than 80% of breast biopsies are normal.

Stereotactic biopsy is a form of needle biopsy that utilizes computer images from a “stereo X-ray” of the breast abnormality. Images are performed from multiple angles to better localize the abnormality. This nonsurgical biopsy is performed with minimal discomfort and without disruption of your entire daily routine.

You will lie comfortably on your abdomen on a specially designed examination table, with your breast positioned through an opening in the table. The radiologist will perform the procedure from beneath you. Once you are in position, several X-rays will be taken. The radiologist will review the images and use a computer to locate the abnormality to be sampled. Your skin will be cleaned, and a local anesthetic will be injected into your skin and deeper into the breast tissue with a small needle. The radiologist will insert a special biopsy needle and take additional X-rays to ensure proper placement of the needle. Several samples of tissue will be taken for analysis at a laboratory, where a pathologist will confirm or rule out cancerous cells.

A breast marker is used to mark the area for any possible future procedures. The marker is safe and can be seen on future X-rays. A mammogram may be done immediately following this procedure.

A core needle biopsy involves removing small samples of breast tissue using a hollow “core” needle.

You will lie or sit on an examination table, with arms relaxed either by your side or over your head depending on the location of the area to be sampled. This procedure is often done under ultrasound guidance, in which case ultrasonic gel will be used to form a contact with your skin. Radiologists will locate the area of concern with the ultrasound probe, and a local anesthetic (Lidocaine) will be injected into your skin and deeper into the breast tissue with a small needle. A small incision (approximately 1 cm) will be made in the skin and a special biopsy needle will be inserted into the area to be sampled. The breast tissue samples will be taken with a “click” of the biopsy needle. This procedure may be repeated for additional samples, usually through the same incision. Samples are sent to the laboratory for analysis by a pathologist, who will detect or rule out cancerous cells.

A breast marker is used to mark the area for any possible future procedures. The marker is safe and can be seen on future X-rays. A mammogram may be done immediately following this procedure.

When abnormal tissue is discovered on a mammogram or ultrasound, or a larger area of tissue must be removed following a core biopsy, it may be necessary to remove breast tissue surgically. Needle localization is often a first step that helps the surgeon locate and remove the area of abnormality.

Before the localization procedure, a mammogram and/or breast ultrasound will be performed to locate the abnormality. Once the area has been localized, local anesthetic will be injected into the skin. A needle with a wire will be inserted into your breast to mark the exact position of the area to be removed. Images may then be taken of your breast to confirm the needle location. Once properly located, the needle will be removed, leaving the wire in your breast as a guide for your surgeon. A dressing will be placed over your breast and you will proceed to your surgery appointment. A radiograph of the surgical specimen may be taken to make certain the area of abnormality has been removed.

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) is a biopsy procedure done with a thin needle and syringe to draw cellular tissue and/or fluid from a breast abnormality. Under ultrasound guidance, the radiologist inserts a thin needle into the area of abnormality. A syringe is attached to the needle and slight suction is applied to extract cells and/or fluid from the area of concern. The cells are then sent to the laboratory for analysis by a pathologist.

Each patient is different, but you might feel a slight sting or pinch when the anesthetic is first being administered to your breast. Numbing the breast prior to the biopsy should make the rest of the procedure as pain-free as possible.

Your breast may be slightly tender and you may experience some bruising at the biopsy site. Typically, most women can resume many of their normal activities the same day as the procedure. Your doctor will advise you of post-biopsy procedure care.

We understand the anxiety patients feel about having a breast biopsy. We will do everything possible to make sure the biopsy sample is promptly sent to pathology for analysis so you and your doctor can discuss what additional steps are needed once the results are available. If you have not been informed of your biopsy results within 2 weeks call your referring physician or the Breast Imaging Center at 252.754.5227.

Schedule an Appointment

Please have your doctor schedule your appointment for this service. If you have questions about your appointment or need to reschedule call 252.752.5000. This service is offered at the following locations:

Preparing for your appointment

It’s important that we have an accurate health history, including a list of medications you’re currently taking. You must discontinue all aspirin products for seven days prior to your biopsy, regardless of the type. This includes ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.), aspirin (including low-dose aspirin, BC Powder, Bayer, etc.), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, etc.). All blood thinners such as Coumadin, Heparin, Xarelto and Plavix must be discontinued for at least three days, with approval from your referring physician. Please bring any outside mammograms to your appointment. If you have any questions about medications, please call the Breast Imaging Center or your healthcare provider.

On the day of your biopsy, we would like you to be as comfortable as possible. Please wear your most supportive bra (a sports bra is ideal) and a two-piece clothing outfit. Please do not use powder, deodorant or lotion. You will be asked to undress from the waist up and wear a cloth gown for the procedure. It is not necessary to purchase a bra for after your biopsy. If extra support is needed we may wrap your breast with an elastic bandage. Post biopsy instructions will be explained at the end of your procedure.