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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer and Minimally Invasive Biopsy

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If your doctor recommends you get a biopsy to test for breast cancer, you may not need to have surgery. You may be able to have a minimally invasive biopsy. Talk to your doctor to see if that’s an option for you.

What’s the Difference?

Because there's no surgery, minimally invasive biopsy offers:

  • Minimal scarring
  • Reduced pain and risk of infection
  • Potentially lower hospital costs
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Immediate return to typical daily activities

Types of Minimally Invasive Surgery

You may be able to have a fine needle aspiration, which is the least invasive type of biopsy. The doctor guides a small sterile needle into the area to be tested and removes tissue. He may take several samples.

A core biopsy is similar, but the doctor uses a larger needle.

Vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is also minimally invasive. A suction device gets more fluid and cells through the needle. It can cut down on the number of times the needle needs to be inserted to get samples.

Often, you may have an image-guided needle biopsy, which uses both a needle and images.

The real-time images help guide the doctor to the exact location of the suspicious area. A radiologist often does this procedure.

There are different methods:

Ultrasound. It uses sound waves to make images of your breast.

You’ll lie on your back on a padded exam table. A small amount of water-soluble gel is applied to your skin over the area to be examined, and a probe that looks like a little paddle is gently applied against it. Sometimes an MRI is used to locate the abnormal area.

Stereotactic. This method uses a special low-dose mammography machine to locate the abnormal tissue.

The doctor centers the area to be tested in the window of a paddle that compresses your breast, and he takes mammogram films to guide him.

You’ll lie on your stomach on a specially designed exam table. It’s raised, and an opening in it allows doctors to do the biopsy from below the table. If for any reason you’re unable to lie on your stomach, this procedure can also be done with you sitting upright in a chair.

With both procedures, you’ll get a local anesthetic to numb the area. After it takes effect, the doctor will make a small opening in your skin. With the images helping to confirm the exact location of the lump, the doctor will put a sterile needle into the tissue and take samples out. After it’s over, sterile strips and a small adhesive bandage will be put on your skin.

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