Breast Biopsies and Aspirations

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If you or your physician finds a lump in your breast or an abnormal area is found on your mammogram, it is normal for you to feel anxious. Our caring, experienced team is here to help put you at ease and schedule your procedure as quickly as possible. We perform breast biopsies to determine if a breast lump is cancerous or benign (non-cancerous), and we perform breast aspirations to remove fluid from non-cancerous breast cysts.

At any point before, during, and after your breast biopsy or aspiration, our team is here to answer your questions and provide support.

What Is a Breast Biopsy?

A breast biopsy is a procedure in which a physician uses a needle to collect samples. The samples are sent to a lab and examined under a microscope to determine if they are cancerous or not. Sixty to 80% of biopsies prove the breast abnormality to be benign (non-cancerous).

Breast biopsies do not remove the entire abnormality. Biopsies help your doctor determine if you require further treatment for breast cancer and can help your care team detect cancer in its earlier, more treatable stages. If your biopsy shows cancer, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options.

Our board-certified interventional radiology team performs this minimally invasive procedure.

What is a Breast Aspiration?

If your breast lump appears to be a fluid-filled sac called a cyst, your doctor may recommend you undergo a breast aspiration. During an aspiration, your radiologist will use a small needle to puncture the lump and drain the fluid inside, which usually causes the lump to collapse and disappear. This shows your doctor that your lump is in fact a cyst, and not cancerous.

Benefits of Breast Biopsy

Breast biopsies have several benefits. They:

  • Can be performed in a minimally invasive way using ultrasound, digital stereotactic (computerized mammogram) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to guide the procedure
  • Are safe, accurate, and well-tolerated by most women
  • Help detect cancer in earlier stages
  • Require little to no recovery time afterward
  • Cause little to no scarring
  • Allow you to avoid surgery if the lump is benign
  • Allow you to begin treatment quickly if cancer is detected

How to Prepare for a Breast Biopsy or Aspiration

Our team will provide detailed instructions before your biopsy or aspiration. In general, you should:

  • Eat a light meal and stay hydrated with water before the procedure.
  • Avoid blood thinners for at least five days prior to the procedure (tell your doctor if you take blood thinners).
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any allergies to local anesthesia, medications, adhesive tape, or latex.
  • Ask a friend or family member to drive you home after the procedure.
What to expect during a breast biopsy

Most women find a breast biopsy to be relatively painless and easy. The procedure usually lasts about 45 minutes. A tiny clip may be inserted into the breast after the biopsy. This clip will make the lump easier to find if the results show that you need surgery.

During the biopsy, tell your doctor if you feel discomfort in your breast and you will be given additional local anesthesia.

To ease your concerns, here is what you can expect during each type of procedure:

Stereotactic (Mammogram-Guided) Biopsy

You will be asked to lie face down on an exam table. A technologist will position your breast into an opening in the table. Then, your breast will be pressed gently between two compression plates, like a traditional mammogram.

Your radiologist will use computer software to find the precise location of your breast lump. Your breast will be cleansed with antiseptic solution, then local anesthetic will be injected to numb the area.

Once the area is numbed, your doctor will create a small incision in the skin where the biopsy needle will be inserted. Your radiologist will then insert the needle to remove tissue samples for testing.

Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy

During an ultrasound-guided biopsy, you will lie face up on an exam table. The procedure will be performed in a similar manner to a mammogram-guided biopsy, though your doctor will use an ultrasound to guide the procedure.

Sentinel Node Biopsy

This surgical procedure to assess the lymph nodes in the axilla (armpit) to evaluate for spread of cancer involves two steps:

  • Blue dye injection (the blue dye helps find the sentinel lymph nodes)
  • Removal of the lymph nodes

In the operating room, your surgeon will inject blue dye into your breast and massage the breast to spread the dye. The surgeon will then make an incision at the lower border of the hairline in the axilla (armpit) and find the blue stained node(s) that is/are radioactive. These will be sent for testing. Your incision will be closed with sutures, which are under the skin and dissolve on their own, then bandaged

After your breast biopsy or aspiration

After your procedure, your doctor or nurse will give you detailed post-biopsy or post-aspiration care instructions.

In general, you should avoid strenuous physical activity for 24 hours after the procedure and then you can resume all of your normal activities. Your biopsy results should be ready in less than one week.

Your follow-up appointments

If your doctor is enrolled in our Priority Breast Care Program, we will schedule a follow-up appointment with you three days after your biopsy. At your appointment, we will go over the results with you and check your biopsy site.

If your doctor is not enrolled in our Priority Breast Care Program, his or her office will schedule any recommended follow-up appointments.

If you require additional imaging or a consultation with a surgeon, we will schedule an appointment for you during this follow-up visit. Our staff will make sure you leave with all of the reports and imaging studies you will need for other appointments.

If your lump is determined to be cancerous, rest assured that our team will help you get the support and care you need.

When Do You Need a Mammogram?

Learn about when you should start, and what to expect.

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