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Diagnostics & Testing

Minimally Invasive Breast Biopsy

Lumps or masses in the breast are not unusual, and most of them are not cancerous. Some breast masses can be felt during a breast exam. Others are detectable only by mammogram (breast X-ray). How a mass is detected does not determine whether it is cancerous. Breast lumps should be evaluated by a physician experienced in diagnosing breast cancer.

When a breast biopsy is recommended for an abnormal mammogram finding, patients may opt for a minimally invasive alternative to surgery known as image-guided core needle biopsy. This is a tissue sampling technique that does not require surgery.

How is image-guided core needle biopsy performed?

The needle biopsy can be performed using ultrasonic or stereotactic guidance.

During the procedure using stereotactic guidance, the patient lies on her abdomen on a specially designed exam table. An opening in the table allows access to the breast. The table is raised, and the biopsy is done from below the table.

The area to be biopsied is centered in the window of a specially designed compression paddle. Mammogram films are taken so the radiologist can examine the breast tissue to be biopsied. These films are called scout films.

During the procedure using ultrasonic guidance, the patient lies on her back on the exam table. The ultrasound probe is then used to identify the lump.

For either stereotactic or ultrasound guidance, a local anesthetic is used. The radiologist makes a small opening in the skin. A sterile biopsy needle is placed perpendicular to the breast tissue area to be biopsied. Computerized pictures help confirm the exact needle placement using digital imaging. Tissue samples are taken through the needle. It is common to take multiple tissue samples (about three to five). This part of the biopsy takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Upon completion, sterile strips and a small adhesive bandage are applied to the skin. The entire procedure takes approximately an hour. Results are usually available in three to five working days.

What are the benefits of image-guided core needle biopsy?

  • Minimal scarring instead of a large incision
  • Reduced post-procedural pain
  • Minimal bleeding
  • Potentially lower hospital costs
  • Immediate return to work
  • Shorter recovery time and immediate resumption of daily activities
  • Less wait time to have procedure performed

How safe is image-guided core needle biopsy?

This procedure is as safe as "open" surgery when performed by specialists in this field. It is more commonly performed today than it previously was.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/28/2009...#8336