What is a non-surgical breast biopsy?
A breast biopsy is the removal of tissue from the breast for microscopic evaluation by a pathologist. Non-surgical breast biopsy techniques can make accurate diagnoses with much smaller amounts of tissue. The procedure is performed by specially-trained radiologists at Saratoga Imaging Center or Glens Falls Hospital, and leaves no permanent scarring inside the breast or on the skin.
How do I prepare for the procedure?
There is no preparation needed for this procedure. We do suggest, however that you be off all aspirin products for five days prior to the biopsy as aspirin may increase your risk of bleeding. Your initial visit, including the biopsy, requires about an hour and the final pathological report is usually ready in several days.
How is the procedure performed?
Breast biopsies can be performed using either ultrasound, mammography (x-ray) or MRI guidance.
When Ultrasound guidance is used you will lie on your back or side on an examination table. The nodule or other suspicious tissue is located with ultrasound. The skin is cleansed with an antiseptic solution, and then anesthetized locally. A needle is passed through the nodule using ultrasound guidance, and a small core of tissue removed for examination by the pathologist.
When x-ray guidance is selected, a specifically-designed digital mammography unit is used to image the breast. The breast is compressed so that the tissue has an even thickness. The compression is usually not as tight as with a regular mammogram and is not uncomfortable. There is a small window in the compression plate. The abnormality is centered in this window and a stereo pair of computerized digital mammograms are obtained. The skin is cleansed, and the area anesthetized with a local anesthetic. Using coordinates calculated from the digital mammogram, small threads of tissue are obtained with a special device called a Mammotome, a form of biopsy needle. A tiny nick is made in the skin where the Mammotome probe enters. The probe removes tissue from the breast abnormality for pathologic examination. If there are multiple abnormal areas, tissue is obtained from each of those areas. If all the abnormal tissue is removed then a tiny titanium clip is left in the breast in the event that subsequent surgery becomes necessary.
What should I expect after the procedure?
The results of the biopsy are usually available in several days. Most patients experience minimal discomfort and can resume regular activities within a day. There may be some minor bruising after the biopsy, however, there will be no permanent scar on the skin or within the breast tissue.
When the diagnosis is benign - that is, the abnormality is not cancerous (70%-80% of all breast biopsies)- no further treatment is necessary. If cancer is detected, you, your family and the medical team (gynecologist, surgeon, radiologist, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and others) can discuss options so that appropriate decisions can be made before any treatment is instituted.