With a breast biopsy, tiny samples of the lump are removed and examined to determine whether it may be cancerous. Most biopsies prove benign (non-cancerous). Biopsies are usually performed using a hollow needle with imaging guidance. The tissue is examined under a microscope to determine a diagnosis.

Aspiration is recommended when it is thought that a lump may be a cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac. To be certain the lump is a cyst, your radiology physician may use a fine needle to puncture the lump and remove the fluid, which usually causes the cyst to collapse and disappear.

A benign (non-cancerous) result from core needle biopsy allows most women to avoid surgery. Needle core biopsy requires less recovery time than surgery and usually has less resulting scarring and cosmetic deformity. Our highly trained and experienced staff will provide patients with detailed information and support before, during, and after the biopsy.

We offer minimally invasive breast biopsy using either ultrasound or digital stereotactic (computerized mammogram) equipment to guide the procedures. Biopsy may also be guided by MRI (performed at 80 Wason).  These procedures are very safe, accurate, and well tolerated by patients.

When a suspicious abnormality is discovered on mammography, ultrasound, or MRI, biopsy is recommended because the imaging appearance alone often does not allow us to determine whether a finding is benign or malignant. It is important to keep in mind that most breast abnormalities that are biopsied are benign (60-80%) and present no health risk to the patient.

Why Physicians Use Breast Biopsy

Identification of lumps and other suspicious sites as early as possible provides women with the best chance to preserve long-term health. Suspicious findings in the breast usually require biopsy for diagnosis. If biopsy is needed, we at Radiology & Imaging will work with you to schedule the procedure as quickly as possible. You can put worries to rest if the biopsy results are harmless. If the biopsy shows cancer, you can begin treatment sooner and have a much greater chance of total elimination of the threat the lump poses to your health. Breast biopsies aren’t designed to remove the entire abnormality, and if a biopsy shows a malignant or high-risk (atypical) result, surgery will be needed.

Preparing For Your Breast Biopsy

Your preparation can vary, depending on the type of procedure. You may eat and drink a light meal beforehand. You may be asked to wear a gown or robe. Blood thinners should be avoided for at least 3 days prior to the procedure. You should notify us of any allergies to local anesthetic, medications, adhesive tape, or latex. You may want to have a relative or friend accompany you and drive you home. Before the procedure, Radiology & Imaging personnel will provide you with additional details and answer any questions you may have. Most biopsies reveal that the questioned abnormality is harmless. That’s true 60 to 80 percent of the time.

What a Breast Biopsy or Aspiration Is Like

The overwhelming majority of women find a breast biopsy or aspiration to be relatively painless and easy.

Stereotactic (mammogram-guided) biopsy

You will lie face down on a moveable exam table. The technologist will position the affected breast or breasts into openings in the table. Your breast will be gently pressed between two compression plates. Using computer software, the radiologist will find the precise location of the problem area to guide accurate needle placement. The breast will be thoroughly cleansed and local anesthetic will be injected. A very small nick will then be made in the skin at the site where the biopsy needle will enter. The radiologist will then insert the needle, advance it to the problem area and verify the position. Tissue samples are then removed.

Ultrasound-guided procedures

You will lie on face up on an exam table in the ultrasound suite. Samples will be taken in a similar way, except that ultrasound will be used continuously during the procedure to place the needle and guide biopsy.

With either type of biopsy, a tiny clip may be placed into the breast after the procedure, to make the abnormality easier to find if the results show that surgery is needed. With both biopsy types, you should let the radiologist know if you are uncomfortable and more anesthetic will be given.

Biopsy procedures typically take about 45 minutes. Afterwards, you will be given detailed post-biopsy care instructions. You should avoid hard physical activity for 24 hours after returning home. Then you should be able to resume all of your normal activities. The biopsy results will be available to you in less than one week.

Priority Breast Care Program

If your provider is enrolled in our Priority Breast Care Program, we will schedule a follow-up appointment with you 3 days after biopsy. Through this program, we will discuss your results with you and check the biopsy site. If follow-up imaging is recommended, we will schedule an appointment for you during this visit. If consultation with a surgeon is needed, we will schedule an appointment with a Baystate Health or another surgeon that you or your referring provider chooses and will make sure that you have all of the needed reports and imaging studies for that appointment before you leave.

Benefits and Risks

Your physician and a Radiology & Imaging radiologist recommend a biopsy when a finding has an appearance that could possibly be cancerous. As medical procedures go, a biopsy or aspiration is minor. You will have little or no scarring. The speed, accuracy and safety of breast biopsies and aspirations are considered extremely high.

Whenever you skin is penetrated, you have some risk of bleeding, hematoma (blood collection) formation, or infection. After a breast biopsy, the chance of complication is extremely low.

Before a biopsy, feeling some anxiety or stress is normal. Your Radiology & Imaging team will help. We’ll give you detailed information before, during and after the biopsy, and will make every effort to keep you comfortable and informed throughout the process.

Limits of Breast Biopsy and Aspiration

Breast biopsy procedures will occasionally not provide enough tissue to make a conclusive diagnosis or will underestimate the extent of the disease. Also, some biopsies will show suspicious or atypical findings that are not cancerous themselves but can occasionally be associated with cancer. If your diagnosis remains uncertain after a technically successful procedure, your physician may recommend surgical biopsy.

We Subspecialize in Breast Health

A growing number of radiology physicians at Radiology & Imaging specialize in breast imaging, biopsies and aspirations. Subspecialization means that more expertise and experience is at work for you.

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