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Percutaneous Breast Biopsy

Percutaneous breast biopsies can be done in a doctor’s office or in an outpatient setting. A needle or special probe is used to take out samples through the skin. The sample is then sent to a lab for study. An image-guided biopsy is done if a lump or breast change can’t be felt. In these cases, the breast change may be found by using ultrasound. Computer mapping based on mammograms can also find the breast changes.

Understanding the risks

Before the biopsy, your doctor will talk with you about the risks of the procedure. They include:

  • Aspiration and vacuum-assisted biopsy may cause slight bruising. This may occur where the needle or probe is put through the skin.

  • Core needle biopsies have a small risk for infection.

  • All percutaneous biopsies may give a false-negative result. This means you may have cancer cells that don’t show up in the biopsy sample. If the results aren’t clear, you are likely to have another type of biopsy.

During the biopsy

Woman lying face down on exam table with hospital gown open in front. One breast is through opening in table. Exam table is on top of X-ray machine. Health care provider is sitting at machine.
You may lie down or sit upright, depending on the type of equipment used.

  • The position you’ll need to be in for the biopsy may vary. It will be based on the safest and easiest method to reach the area. It also will depend on the type of machine used to do the biopsy. The most common position is face down.

  • During an aspiration, a very thin needle is placed into the lump. This type of biopsy takes only minutes to do.

  • With core needle biopsy, more than 1 sample is taken. The needle is inserted for each sample.

  • With vacuum-assisted biopsy, the probe often is put in only once.

  • When needed, both core needle and vacuum-assisted biopsy can be guided by images. This is done on an outpatient basis.

After the biopsy

  • You can go home shortly after the biopsy. This is true for whichever biopsy method is used.

  • Don’t do any physical work or strenuous activity for the first 24 hours after the procedure.

  • You can usually return to your normal routine after 24 hours of rest.

  • You may have some bruising and swelling for a few days. Sometimes a small, freckle-like scar appears.

Online Medical Reviewer: Song, David H, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Wetter, L Albert, MD
Last Review Date: 12/28/2011
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