John C. Lincoln Breast Health and Research Center
19646 N. 27th Ave., Suite 205
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Call 623-780-HOPE (4673) to learn about breast biopsy services at our center
Learn how John C. Lincoln's Breast Health and Research Center provides compassionate, coordinated and technologically advanced care.
In a breast biopsy, a radiologist will remove a small sample of breast tissue, so that it can be analyzed under a microscope. In many cases, it offers the only means of confirming whether a mass is breast cancer or benign.
At the John C. Lincoln Breast Health and Research Center, our two dedicated breast specialists perform a full range of biopsy procedures, which require great skill and expertise to do well.
In this discussion, our medical staff describes reasons for having a biopsy, as well as the different kinds of biopsies that are available.
Why might a patient need breast biopsy?
An imaging exam, such as a mammogram or MRI, can locate a mass in the breast tissue. Yet, sometimes a breast biopsy is needed to be absolutely certain that a mass is — or is not — cancerous. Breast biopsy will answer whether a patient will require surgery to remove the mass.
What are some of the most common kinds of biopsy?
The most common kinds of biopsy are stereotactic biopsy, ultrasound biopsy, needle aspiration biopsy, core needle biopsy and others. All biopsies share one characteristic: they're performed using a needle. You may have heard about "breast needle biopsy." It's the same as a breast biopsy.
What is stereotactic biopsy?
In stereotactic breast biopsy, the patient lies on the table face down. The breast goes through a hole in the table, and paddles hold the breast, just like a mammogram machine.
Using digital mammography, we will capture two-dimensional digital images of the breast from two different angles. Stereotactic biopsy is used specifically for areas found on the mammogram, such as calcifications, which may be only three grains of salt in size.
You can't biopsy calcifications using ultrasound, simply because calcifications are not visible in ultrasound. You have to use stereotactic biopsy.
What is ultrasound biopsy?
In an ultrasound biopsy, the patient lies on her back. Using a handheld transducer, a technologist will scan the breast to find the mass. Then, the breast will be numbed, and the needle inserted.
Just as we use stereotactic biopsy for tiny calcifications and other areas seen best by x-ray, we use ultrasound guidance to biopsy areas of concern seen better with ultrasound.
And finally, what are needle aspiration biopsy and core needle biopsy?
A needle aspiration biopsy may be used when a patient has a cyst, which can be large and uncomfortable. In this procedure, we'll insert a needle into the breast to aspirate — or draw out — the fluid, so that the patient is comfortable again.
If the fluid has blood in it, we send it out to a lab for further review. However, that's pretty rare. Sometimes cancers can have a really thick fluid, but it's not a cyst. We'll always do a biopsy in that case.
In core needle biopsy, it's tissue — not fluid — that's removed from a breast lump. Differently sized hollow needles are used for this procedure. The samples are sent to pathology for further examination.