Stereotactic breast biopsy

Stereotactic Guided Breast Biopsies are available to patients at BMH, allowing for a significantly less invasive biopsy option for those facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer. A stereotactic biopsy is used take samples from a lump that cannot be felt during a breast exam, but can be seen on a mammogram or an ultrasound. A lump deep inside the breast, or an abnormality too small to feel, can be biopsied using this technique.

How the Test is Performed

  • You will be asked to undress from the waist up.
  • You will most likely be asked to lie facing down on the biopsy table. The breast that is being biopsied will hang through an opening in the table. The table is raised and the doctor will perform the biopsy from underneath.
  • In some cases, stereotactic breast biopsy is done while the woman sits in an upright position.

A stereotactic biopsy includes the following steps:

  • The health care provider will first clean the area on your breast, and then will inject a numbing medicine. This may sting a little bit.
  • The breast is pressed down to hold it in position during the procedure. You need to hold still while the biopsy is being performed.
  • The doctor will make 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. Up to six or more tissue samples are taken.
  • A small metal clip or needle may be placed into the breast in the biopsy area to mark it for biopsy, 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, including 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. You will not need stitches after the needle is taken out. Steristrips may be placed over any wound, if needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

  • The health care provider will ask questions about your medical history and perform a manual breast exam.
  • You must sign an informed consent form. If you are going to have general anesthesia, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 8 – 12 hours before the test.
  • If you take medications (including aspirin or herbal medications), ask your doctor whether you need to stop taking these before the biopsy.
  • Tell your doctor if you may be pregnant before having an open biopsy.
  • Do not wear lotion, perfume, powder, or deodorant underneath your arms or on your breasts.

How the Test Will Feel

  • You may feel a sharp, stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is injected. During the procedure, you may feel slight discomfort or light pressure.
  • Lying on your stomach for up to 1 hour may be uncomfortable. Using cushions or pillows may help. Some patients are given a pill to help relax them before the procedure.
  • After the test, the breast may be sore and tender to the touch for several days. Do not do any heavy lifting or work with your arms for 24 hours after the biopsy. You can use acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief.

Why the Test is Performed

  • This test may be done if your doctor suspects cancer due to abnormal findings on a mammogram or ultrasound of the breast, or during a physical exam.
  • To identify whether someone has breast cancer, a biopsy must be done. Tissue and fluid from the abnormal area are removed and examined with a microscope.
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy is often used when a small growth or calcifications are seen on a mammogram, but cannot be seen using an ultrasound of the breast.