Know the Basics
When an abnormality is found on a breast imaging examination, the radiologist may recommend an image-guided biopsy.
Image-guided biopsy is a safe, minimally invasive procedure and is the only definitive way (other than surgical biopsy) to determine whether breast tissue is benign or cancerous.
Small amounts of breast tissue are removed through a needle and sent to a pathologist, who studies the tissue samples under a microscope to provide a final diagnosis. Three different image-guided techniques are used for biopsies of most breast lesions; the method that is selected is based on how the abnormality was detected and which technique will be easiest, safest, and most comfortable for the patient.
- Stereotactic biopsies are most commonly performed on lesions that are best visualized on a diagnostic mammogram. Additional X-ray images are taken from multiple angles to precisely localize the abnormality, and a special needle is used to obtain a tissue sample.
- Ultrasound-guided biopsies are usually performed on lesions that have been detected on a prior ultrasound examination. Ultrasound uses sound waves to precisely locate the abnormality prior to obtaining a tissue sample. Unlike stereotactic biopsy, ultrasound-guided biopsy does not expose the patient to ionizing radiation.
- MRI-guided biopsies use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate the area in question before obtaining a tissue sample. MRI-guided biopsies are performed when the area of concern is not well seen by mammography or ultrasound and is visible on MRI. Like ultrasound-guided biopsy, MRI-guided biopsy is not associated with any patient radiation exposure.