What Is a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy?
breast biopsy is a procedure that uses mammography to precisely identify
and biopsy an abnormality within the breast. It is normally done when the
radiologist sees a suspicious abnormality on your mammogram that can’t be felt in
a physical exam. This procedure will help determine whether or not you have
breast cancer or any other concerning abnormalities in your breast.
A mammography is a special form of X-ray used on the breasts. It
is recommended as a preventative screening tool for breast cancer in women over
the age of 40.
Stereotactic breast biopsies use mammographic
X-rays to locate and target the area of concern and to help guide the
biopsy needle to a precise location. This technique helps ensure that the area
that is biopsied is the exact area where the abnormality was seen on the
mammogram. It is called stereotactic because it utilizes two images taken from
slightly different angles of the same location. After the sample is collected
it is sent to a pathology lab to determine if there are cancer cells present.
Why a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Is Performed
A breast biopsy is typically done to investigate irregularities (such
as a lump) in the breast. A breast lump may be frightening. However, according
to the Mayo Clinic, breast lumps are often
A breast biopsy is typically done if your doctor becomes
concerned following a mammogram or breast ultrasound. Your doctor may also
order these tests if a lump was discovered during a physical exam.
There are a few different biopsy techniques including:
- stereotactic core biopsy
- fine needle aspiration (FNA)
- excisional and needle wire localization biopsy
Your medical team will recommend one of these depending on the
type of breast lesion you have.
This form of breast biopsy — called stereotactic — is often used
when small growths or accumulations of calcium called calcifications are
detected on a mammogram, but do not appear on an ultrasound and cannot be felt
on a physical exam of the breast. It is less invasive than a surgical biopsy, requires
less recovery time, and causes minimal scaring.
The Risks of a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy
A stereotactic breast biopsy is a relatively simple and low-risk
procedure. However, it does carry these risks:
- bruising and swelling of the breast
- infection of the biopsy site
- soreness at the injection site
If you follow your doctor’s instructions on how to care for your
wound, you will greatly reduce your risk of infection.
If you are pregnant or concerned you may be pregnant, radiation
from the X-rays may be harmful to your unborn child. Be sure to tell your
doctor so alternative biopsy methods can be considered.
Complications from a biopsy are rare. The risks associated with
the procedure are outweighed by the benefits of having potentially cancerous calcifications
inspected. Remember, the quicker breast cancer is detected, the faster your treatment
How to Prepare for a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy
Before your breast biopsy, tell your doctor about any allergies
you have, especially any history of allergic reactions to anesthesia. Also be
sure to mention any medications you may be taking, including over-the-counter
drugs such as aspirin or supplements.
During the test, you could be lying on your stomach for up to an
hour. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned that will be a problem for you.
You’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown. You should avoid
using moisturizer on your breast and remove all jewelry and any body piercings
before the biopsy.
You might be given a cold pack after the procedure to help with
pain and inflammation. Wear a bra to help keep the cold pack in place.
How a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Is Performed
Before the procedure begins, you will have to undress from the
You’ll lie facedown on a padded table with a hole in it. Your
breast will drop into this hole.
The table is raised several feet in the air so your radiologist
can access your breast though the hole in the table. They will then use two
plates to firmly compress your breast. This allows them to get X-ray pictures
of your breast and identify the abnormalities in the breast tissue.
This part of the procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to
After the proper images are taken, a small area of your breast
will be injected with local anesthesia. Then, the radiologist will make a small
nick in your breast.
A sample of breast tissue will be taken using a needle or a probe
attached to a vacuum. Several small tissue samples will be removed and sent to
a pathology laboratory for testing.
After the samples are taken, the doctor or technician will hold
pressure to the area to prevent bleeding and then apply surgical tape to keep
the area closed and prevent infection. A small metal clip or bracket may be
left in the place where the biopsy was done, so it can easily be located again
if more testing is needed, or if you go on to have a breast surgery.
After a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy
You will be able to go home after your stereotactic breast
The samples of your tissue will be sent to a pathology laboratory.
It may take up to a week for them to be properly analyzed.
You will be given instructions on how to care for the biopsy site
at home. This includes keeping it clean and changing the bandages to prevent
You should contact your doctor if you develop a fever over 100°F
or experience redness, warmth, or discharge from the site. These are all signs