Stereotactic breast biopsy is a minimally invasive, image-guided method to obtain breast tissue and fluid to test for cancer.
Stereotactic breast biopsies are offered at Sentara breast centers throughout Hampton Roads. Sentara staff takes great care to ensure patients understand the procedure and feel as comfortable as possible during the exam. A radiologist will perform the exam, and a pathology report will provide the results after the biopsy.
What is a stereotactic breast biopsy?
Mammography and other breast imaging services are excellent ways to detect abnormalities in the breast, but in order to determine conclusively that a tumor is benign or cancerous, a tissue sample must be collected for microscopic examination.
Surgical biopsies can be painful, leave scars and make future mammograms hard to read. Stereotactic breast biopsy is a less invasive outpatient option, allowing patients a quick diagnosis with less pain and more accuracy. A stereotactic breast biopsy is an image guided procedure in which a radiologist inserts an needle into the breast to collect tissue.
What can a stereotactic breast biopsy tell my doctor?
A stereotactic breast biopsy is performed when a mammogram shows a breast abnormality such as:
A suspicious solid mass
Microcalcifications, a cluster of small calcium deposits
Distortion the breast structure
Abnormal tissue change
A new mass or area of calcium deposits at a previous surgery site.
A pathology report provided after the biopsy will determine if the area sampled are benign or cancerous.
How do I prepare for my exam?
Do not wear lotion, perfume, powder or deodorant underneath your arms or on your breasts. You may be asked to remove jewelry, dentures, glasses and any metal objects or clothing that could interfere with the X-ray images.
Women should inform their physician if they could be pregnant. Patients should also let their physician know about medications or herbal supplements they are taking or any allergies, including allergies to to anesthesia. Your physician will advise you to stop taking aspirin or a blood thinner three days before your procedure. Inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
If you are going to have general anesthesia, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 8 to 12 hours before the test.
If you are under general anesthesia or are going to be sedated, make sure to have a friend or relative on hand to drive you home.
How is the test performed?
You will most likely be asked to lie facing down on the biopsy table. The breast that is being biopsied will be placed through an opening in the table. The table is raised, and the doctor will perform the biopsy from underneath. In some cases, a stereotactic breast biopsy is done while the woman sits in an upright position.
Breast X-rays taken during the procedure help pinpoint the exact location of the abnormality. The computer translates this information to the biopsy instrument.
The area to be examined will be numbed and the doctor will make a small cut on the breast. Using a machine, the radiologist will guide a needle or sheath to the exact location of the abnormal area.
The biopsy itself is done using one of the following:
Fine needle aspiration
Hollow needle (called a core needle)
Both a needle and vacuum-powered device
While the needle is inserted only once, six to 12 samples are usually collected during the procedure. No scar is left by the incision. A small metal clip or needle may be placed into the breast in the biopsy area to mark it for biopsy, if needed.
The procedure usually takes about an hour, including the time it takes for the X-rays. The actual biopsy only takes 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 bleeding. A bandage will be applied. You will not need stitches, but Steri-strips™ may be placed over any wound, if needed.
Are there risks?
There is a slight chance of infection at the injection or surgical site. Excessive bleeding is rare, but may require draining or re-bandaging. Bruising is common.
Avoid strenuous activity for 24 hours after returning home. After the test, the breast may be sore for several days. Do not do any heavy lifting or work with your arms for 24 hours after the biopsy. You can use pain relief.
How will I find out the results?
A pathologist examines the removed specimen and makes a final diagnosis. Depending on the facility, the radiologist or your referring physician will share the results with you.
Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Locations:
Dorothy G. Hoefer Comprehensive Breast Center at Port Warwick, Newport News
Sentara Williamsburg Comprehensive Breast Center
Sentara Leigh Comprehensive Breast Center, Norfolk
Sentara Norfolk General Comprehensive Breast Center
Sentara Obici Breast Center, Suffolk
Sentara Princess Anne Comprehensive Breast Center, Virginia Beach
Sentara Virginia Beach Comprehensive Breast Center