When a breast biopsy is recommended for an abnormal mammogram finding, patients may be able to choose a minimally invasive alternative to surgery known as image-guided needle biopsy. This procedure involves taking sample tissue from the suspicious area to determine whether a breast lump is cancerous.
This is a minimally invasive technique that does not require surgery. A specially trained radiologist or surgeon performs this type of biopsy.
St. Mary uses the Mammotome® System with either sterotactic or ultrasound guidance to perform these biopsies which can help a doctor make a highly accurate diagnosis. Digital imaging enables a physician to guide the Mammotome® probe to gently collect tissue samples through a small quarter-inch incision.
St. Mary performs minimally invasive breast biopsies in a specially equipped room in the St. Mary Breast Center. This is an outpatient procedure done under local anesthesia. The entire procedure generally takes less than an hour, and patients can return to their normal daily activities immediately afterward.
A doctor can make a precise analysis with minimal pain, scarring and recovery time.
Stereotactic refers to the use of stereo images -- x-ray pictures of the breast taken from different angles -- to determine the precise location of the abnormal tissue. When stereotactic guidance is used, 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.
When ultrasound guidance is used, the patient lies on her back on the exam table. The area that needs to be tested is centered in the window of a specially designed compression paddle and ultrasound imaging is used to locate the tissue for biopsy.
After giving a local anesthetic, the radiologist or surgeon makes a small opening in the skin. A sterile biopsy needle is placed into the abnormal breast tissue. Digital imaging helps confirm the exact needle placement. Tissue samples are taken through the needle. It is common to take multiple tissue samples.
At St. Mary, core biopsy uses a needle to obtain a piece of tissue about 1/16 inch across and one-half-inch long, and a vacuum assisted needle biopsy device (VAD) uses vacuum suction to obtain a tissue sample. This tissue is then examined under the microscope to look for cancer cells.
While the thought of having a breast biopsy might be frightening, the results can provide reassuring peace of mind. A biopsy is currently the only way to achieve an accurate breast cancer diagnosis. Please remember, the vast majority (nearly 80 percent) of breast biopsies do not turn out to be breast cancer.