A stereotactic breast biopsy is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure used to obtain tissue samples for microscopic examination. Mammographic guidance is used to find the area, which usually cannot be felt. The radiologist removes samples of breast tissue using a special needle. These tissue samples are sent to the pathologist for review. The patient's healthcare provider will receive a pathology report several days after the biopsy and will review the results with the patient.
How to prepare for a stereotactic biopsy
- There are no diet restrictions, eat and drink as usual.
- Take usual medications on exam day
- Aspirin and anticoagulants increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.
- Patients taking anticoagulants (blood-thinners) or aspirin should contact the doctor managing those medications to see if they can safely stop them prior to the biopsy
- Herbal substances that affect bleeding, such as Gingko biloba, should be stopped two weeks prior to the breast biopsy
- Advise Providence Imaging Center's scheduler of allergies to latex, lidocaine, as well as any history of anticoagulants, prior to appointment
- Omit using lotion or powder on the breasts on exam day
- Wear a two-piece outfit and a supportive bra
What to expect during the procedure
Once checked in and registered, the patient is taken to a dressing room. She will remove her shirt and bra and put on a mammography cape or a front-opening smock. If desired, she will also be given a robe. A locker is available to secure personal items. The patient will wait in the Women's Lounge until the technologist escorts them to the stereo room.
The technologist will review the procedure with the patient, answer any questions, and have her sign a consent form. The patient will be asked to lie face down on a table and the breast is placed through an opening. The table will be raised. It is important to lie very still. As in a mammogram, mammography plates will be positioned around the breast, compressing it to locate the area of concern. Mammography films are taken and the radiologist uses a computer to help locate the area to be sampled.
The skin in the area to be biopsied is cleaned with betadine. A local "numbing" anesthetic, usually lidocaine, is administered, which will numb an area about the size of a quarter. A special "core" needle is inserted into the breast and tissue is removed The process is repeated to obtain several tissue samples. As the samples are taken, mechanical sounds, including a loud click, will be heard. The process will be explained to the patient throughout the procedure. Some women report a sensation of pressure, if discomfort is experienced, the radiologist can administer additional anesthetic. After adequate sampling, a clip is placed inside so the site of the biopsy can be identified in future mammograms.
Tissue samples are then sent to the pathology department for processing, interpretation and reporting.
After the procedure
- The radiologist or technologist will apply pressure to the biopsy area for several minutes to stop any bleeding; the biopsy area will be closed with a steri-strip and sterile dressing
- The patient will be given a small ice pack for her bra to help reduce bruising. It is recommended to apply ice on and off the rest of the day.
- Patients should be able to drive or return to work following the biopsy
- Avoid heavy lifting for the next threeo days to prevent bleeding or extended bruising.
- Take a non-aspirin pain reliever, like Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, etc., for discomfort. Avoid aspirin for 48 hours
- Remove dressings and shower the morning after the biopsy; leave the steri-strips in place, which should begin to peel off on their own in four to five days
- Check the biopsy area daily; contact Providence Imaging Center if there is excessive pain, bleeding, swelling, drainage, redness, or the area is warm to touch. If unable to reach PIC, the patient should contact her healthcare provider.
Results and follow-up
The patient's clinician will contact her several days after the biopsy procedure with the results. Follow up with a diagnostic mammogram is recommended six months post biopsy. The radiologist will determine if any further imaging studies should be performed. Please call the PIC nurse at (907) 212-3607 if there are questions about the procedure or results.
Breast biopsy instructions (downloadable PDF)