Stereotactic Breast Biopsy: About This Test

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What is it?

Stereotactic breast biopsy is a test that uses imaging, such as X-ray, to find an area of your breast where a tissue sample will be taken. The sample is looked at under a microscope to check for signs of breast cancer.

Why is this test done?

This type of breast biopsy is usually done to check for cancer in a lump found during a mammogram.

How can you prepare for the test?

Talk to your doctor about all your health conditions before the test. For example, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are taking any medicines.
  • Are allergic to any medicines.
  • Are allergic to latex.
  • Have had any bleeding problems, or if you take aspirin or some other blood thinner.
  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Have a problem with lying on your stomach for 30 to 40 minutes.

What happens before the test?

  • You will take off your clothing above the waist. A paper or cloth gown will cover your shoulders.
  • Your skin is washed with a special soap.
  • You will be given a shot of medicine to numb the biopsy area on your breast.
  • Images are taken to find the exact site for the biopsy.

What happens during the test?

  • You will lie on your stomach on a table that has a hole for your breast to hang through.
  • Once the area in your breast is numb, a small cut (incision) is made in the skin.
  • Using the imaging, the doctor will guide the needle into the biopsy area.
  • A sample of breast tissue is taken through the needle.
  • A small clip is usually inserted into your breast to mark the biopsy site.
  • The needle is removed and pressure put on the needle site to stop any bleeding.
  • A bandage is put on the needle site.

What else should you know about the test?

  • The small cut for the needle does not usually need stitches.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take about 60 minutes. Most of the time is spent preparing for the images and finding the area for the biopsy.

What happens after the test?

  • You'll be told how long it may take to get your results back.
  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away, but avoid heavy lifting for 24 hours.
  • The site may be tender for 2 or 3 days. You may also have some bruising, swelling, or slight bleeding.
    • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
    • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • After a specialist looks at the biopsy sample for signs of cancer, your doctor's office will let you know the results.
  • If the test results are not clear, you may have another biopsy or test.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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