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Stereotactic Breast Biopsy 

Stereotactic breast biopsy is an important procedure for diagnosing breast cancer.  It is a noninvasive method of obtaining a breast tissue sample for biopsy.  A biopsy is an examination to determine if the sample is cancerous or not.  Stereotactic breast biopsy is a relatively painless short outpatient procedure and recovery time is brief.

Traditional biopsies are invasive surgical procedures that remove a suspicious lump and some of the tissue around it.  The procedure is performed with general anesthesia and the incision is closed with stitches, possibly leaving a scar.  As a result of the surgery, the tissue area may appear distorted on future mammograms.  For some women, stereotactic breast biopsy is an alternative to traditional open surgical biopsy methods.

Stereotactic breast biopsy uses a special mammography machine and computerized calculations to pinpoint the suspicious area of breast tissue.  It is especially helpful for diagnosing areas of breast tissue that appear suspicious on a mammogram, but are not palpable with a clinical breast examination.  The procedure obtains a tissue sample, while leaving the breast intact.

Requiring only local anesthesia, tissue samples are removed with a needle.  Stereotactic breast biopsy does not require stitches and does not leave a scar.  The stereotactic breast biopsy method does not distort the breast tissue or make it difficult to read future mammograms.  Further, stereotactic breast biopsy methods are as accurate as open biopsies.

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Stereotactic breast biopsy is performed as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia.  Depending on the facility, you may be seated in a chair or positioned face down on a table.  Your breast will be placed between two plates, similar to what is used for a mammogram.  One plate has a window through which the biopsy is performed.  A series of images will be taken and interpreted by a computer to produce a 3D picture and pinpoint the specific location of the lesion.

A variety of minimally invasive biopsy methods may be used to remove the tissue samples.  Various sized needles may be used alone or with vacuum suction assistance.  A small metal clip may be left at the biopsy site to mark the exact location in case further treatment is needed for cancer. 

Once the sample is taken, no stitches are required because there is no incision.  You should avoid strenuous activities for a day, but may return to your regular activities after that.  It may take a few days for a pathologist to process your specimens.  Your doctor will contact you when he or she has received the results.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit