A breast biopsy is the removal of breast tissue to examine it for signs of breast cancer or other disorders.
There are several types of breast biopsies, including open, ultrasound-guided, and lumpectomy. This article focuses on stereotactic breast biopsy, which uses mammography to help pinpoint the spot in the breast that needs to be removed.
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How the Test is Performed
You are asked to undress from the waist up. During the biopsy, you are awake.
You are most likely asked to lie facing down on the biopsy table. The breast that is being biopsied hangs through an opening in the table. The table is raised and the doctor performs the biopsy from underneath. In some cases, stereotactic breast biopsy is done while you sit in an upright position.
The biopsy is done in the following way:
- The health care provider first cleans the area on your breast. Numbing medicine is injected.
- The breast is pressed down to hold it in position during the procedure. You need to hold still while the biopsy is being done.
- The doctor makes a very small cut on your breast over the area that needs to be biopsied.
- Using a special machine, a needle or sheath is guided to the exact location of the abnormal area. Several samples of breast tissue are taken.
- A small metal clip may be placed into the breast in the biopsy area. The clip marks it for surgical biopsy later, if needed.
The biopsy itself is done using one of the following:
- Fine needle aspiration
- Hollow needle (called a core needle)
- Vacuum-powered device
- Both a needle and vacuum-powered device
The procedure usually takes about 1 hour. This includes the time it takes for the x-rays. The actual biopsy takes only several minutes.
After the tissue sample has been taken, the catheter or needle is removed. Ice and pressure are applied to the site to stop any bleeding. A bandage will be applied to absorb any fluid. Stitches are not needed. Adhesive strips may be placed over any wound, if needed.