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Breast Biopsy

Brief Description – A breast biopsy is the removal of breast tissue to examine it for signs of breast cancer or other disorders. Different types of biopsy may be done. One type called stereotactic breast biopsy uses mammography to help pinpoint the spot in the breast that needs to be removed.

Why the Test is Performed

Stereotactic breast biopsy is used when a small growth or calcifications are seen on a mammogram, but cannot be seen using an ultrasound of the breast. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist (doctor) to be examined.

How the Test is Performed

You will be asked to undress from the waist up. You will most likely be asked to lie facing down on the biopsy table. The breast that is being biopsied will hang through an opening in the table. The table will then be raised and the doctor will perform the biopsy from underneath. In some cases, stereotactic breast biopsy can be done while you sit in an upright position. A stereotactic biopsy includes the following steps:

  •  The doctor first cleans the area on your breast. Anaesthetic is then applied. This may sting a bit.
  •  The breast is pressed down to hold it in position during the procedure. You need to hold still while the biopsy is being performed.
  •  The doctor makes a very small cut on your breast over the area that needs to be biopsied.
  •  Using a special machine, a needle or sheath is guided to the exact location of the abnormal area. Several samples of breast tissue are taken.
  •  A small metal clip may be placed into the breast in the biopsy area. The clip marks it for surgical biopsy later, if needed.The procedure usually takes about 1 hour. The actual biopsy takes only several minutes. After the tissue sample has been taken, the catheter or needle is removed. Ice and pressure are applied to the site to stop any bleeding. A bandage will be applied to absorb any fluid.

    How to Prepare For the Test

    The doctor will ask about your medical history. A breast examination may be done. You must sign an informed consent. If you are on any medication (including aspirin or herbal remedies), ask your doctor whether you need to stop taking these before the biopsy. Tell your doctor if you

may be pregnant before having an open biopsy. Do not use lotion, perfume, powder, or deodorant underneath your arms or on your breasts.

During the Test

You may feel a sharp, stinging sensation when the local anaesthetic is injected. During the procedure, you may feel slight discomfort or light pressure. Lying on your stomach for up to 1 hour may be uncomfortable. Using cushions or pillows may help. Some patients are given a pill to help relax them before the procedure.

After the Test

After the test, the breast may be sore and tender for several days. Do not do any heavy lifting or work with your arms for 24 hours after the biopsy. You can use paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief.


There is a slight chance of infection at the injection or surgical cut site. Bruising is common. But excessive bleeding is rare, in which case may require draining or re-bandaging.

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