Lumps or abnormalities in the breast are often detected by physical examination, mammography or other imaging studies. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a growth is benign or cancerous.

A breast biopsy is performed to remove some cells – either surgically or through a less invasive procedure involving a hollow needle – from a suspicious area in the breast and examine them under a microscope to determine a diagnosis. Image-guided needle biopsy is not designed to remove the entire lesion, but most of a very small lesion may be removed during the process.

Image-guided biopsy is performed when the abnormal area in the breast is too small to be felt, making it difficult to locate the lesion by feel (called palpation). In ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, ultrasound imaging is used to help guide the radiologist’s instrument to the site of the abnormal growth.

Click here for a two minute overview of ultrasound-guided breast biopsy.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy can be performed when a breast ultrasound shows an abnormality such as:

  • A suspicious solid mass
  • A distortion in the structure of the breast tissue
  • An area of abnormal tissue change

There are times when your doctor may decide that ultrasound guidance for biopsy is appropriate even for a mass that can be felt.

Ultrasound guidance is used in a biopsy procedure in which a biopsy needle is inserted through the skin to the site of an abnormal growth to collect and remove a sample of cells for analysis. This procedure uses an automated needle, which obtains one sample of tissue at a time. A small metal tube is inserted through the skin directed at the lesion to be biopsied, and left in place during the exam. The biopsy needle is placed through the metal tube eliminating multiple procedures.

Procedure

You will be positioned lying face up on the examination table or turned slightly to the side. A local anesthetic will be injected into the breast to numb it.

Pressing the ultrasound transducer to the breast, the sonographer or radiologist will locate the lesion. A very small nick is made in the skin at the site where the biopsy needle is to be inserted. The radiologist, monitoring the lesion site with the ultrasound probe, will insert the needle and advance it directly into the mass.

Tissue samples are then removed. After this sampling, the needle will be removed. Once the biopsy is complete, pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding and the opening in the skin is covered with a dressing. No sutures are needed.

This procedure is usually completed within one hour.

Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy is performed at the DIS Women’s & Advanced Imaging Center in Metairie.