Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

A stereotactic breast biopsy is a procedure in which a mass, such as a nodule or tumor, is removed from a patient's breast through a needle and suction device. This procedure is recommended when a mass can be seen on a patient's mammogram but not her sonogram. The abnormalities removed during the biopsy are typically calcium deposits, but sometimes they are nodules or small tumors.

Preparing for the Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

Before a stereotactic breast biopsy, the doctor will perform a physical exam and review the patient's medical history. The patient should notify the doctor is she may be pregnant because the radiation used by the mammography equipment can be harmful to the unborn child.

It is important that the doctor knows of all medications that the patient is taking, as she may need to stop some of them before the biopsy. Patients who take aspirin, Coumadin or anti-inflammatory medication regularly are asked to stop a few days prior to the stereotactic breast biopsy. Usually medications can be resumed 24 hours after the biopsy.

On the day of the biopsy, the patient should not apply any perfume, deodorant, lotion or powder to the breasts or underarms.

The Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Procedure

The biopsy is performed by your breast care specialist  with a vacuum-assisted needle. The needle is used to remove the tissue containing the calcification or nodule using a suction device. In most cases the entire abnormality is removed. The procedure is quick and painless.

Usually, the patient is positioned face-down on a special biopsy table with the affected breast positioned into an opening in the table. The abnormal area of the breast is compressed with a paddle, and X-rays or digital photographs are taken so the radiologist can see the mass in three dimensions and pinpoint its location. the pressure applied to the breast is similar to that experienced during a mammogram.

Before the needle is inserted, the skin is sterilized and numbed with a local anesthetic. Tissue is removed swiftly and painlessly with the mammotome needle through a small incision in the skin. After the sample has been taken, a titanium clip is inserted in the breast to mark the area in case surgery is required. Tape placed over the incision minimizes scar size.

More than one area can be biopsied in the same session, but this will result in greater post-procedure discomfort. Ice can reduce any bruising and discomfort the patient may experience. Strenuous physical activity should be limited for 24 hours to eliminate the risk of bleeding.

Biopsied tissue is sent to a pathologist and a diagnosis should be given within 24 to 48 hours. If the abnormality is diagnosed as cancer, surgical biopsy is required.

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