What is a breast biopsy?
A breast biopsy uses a thin, hollow needle to remove or aspirate a sample of tissue from the breast so it can be evaluated in the lab for signs of cancer or other diseases or abnormalities. It's one of the best and most accurate diagnostic imaging methods for your doctor to determine if a suspicious area of your breast might be cancerous without the need to resort to invasive exploratory surgery. Ultrasound is used during the procedure to ensure the needle is properly positioned before the sample is extracted.
When is a breast biopsy used?
Ultrasound-guided breast biopsies are typically ordered when you or your doctor have detected a lump, thickening, or other abnormal area within the breast tissue, or when a mammogram, ultrasound or breast MRI reveals a suspicious finding. Breast biopsy may also be ordered if you have specific symptoms that are often associated with breast cancers, including nipple discharge, dimpling of the breast tissue, or crusting or scaling around the nipple or another area of the breast.
What is the procedure like?
Before the procedure, you'll be asked to remove your jewelry and any other metal and to put on a medical gown. After lying down on the table, either on your back or on your side, the breast tissue will be carefully cleansed and an injection of local anesthetic will be given to numb the area. A special gel will be placed on the breast, and the handheld ultrasound transducer will be pressed gently into the tissue to obtain images that are sent to a monitor. The doctor will use those images to guide the placement of the needle. A very small incision will be made directly over the biopsy site to enable the needle to be carefully inserted.
Two types of biopsies may be used – a fine needle biopsy, which extracts a very tiny sample of tissue, and a core needle biopsy, which extracts a larger sample. The type that's used generally depends on the location or size of the lump or mass. Once the tissue has been extracted, the doctor may also insert a tiny marker inside the breast to make it easier to locate and monitor the biopsy site in the future, especially on diagnostic mammograms. Most procedures take well under an hour to perform. Once the procedure is complete, pressure will be applied to the area to prevent bleeding and a bandage will be placed over the biopsy site. You can relieve any discomfort with an over-the-counter pain medication to counteract swelling or intermittent application of an ice pack. You can expect to resume your regular activities withing a day of your procedure.
Breast biopsies play an important role in helping you and your doctor manage your health. At RAI, our radiologists and technicians are trained in state-of-the-art techniques aimed at providing the most accurate results while helping patients remain relaxed and comfortable.