Biopsies may need to be performed using the mammogram equipment. This only occurs if the area to be biopsied is not visible under ultrasound.
By using special attachments on the mammography equipment, core biopsies can be done using stereotactic guidance, using an aseptic technique. For more information, see core biopsy.
The procedure is much the same as under ultrasound, but you will be sitting on a chair or lying on a special trolley while the procedure is performed. A local anaesthetic is used, and the mammographers will make sure the procedure is as comfortable as possible.
This involves taking a sample of tissue through a needle. The needle is guided into place using x-ray.
You will be positioned in the best way to access the area to be biopsied. The area will be cleaned with antiseptic and local anaesthetic administered. A tiny incision (cut) will be made in the skin before the core needle is inserted with x-ray guidance. It is often necessary to make more than one pass of the needle to get a sufficient sample.
Once the biopsy has been completed, a site marker is placed within the biopsy site while you are still in the mamography machine, so that the area may be identified by either mammogram or ultrasound for future reference, if any surgery is required. The site marker is made of either titanium or stainless steel; it is inert and safe to stay in your body. It does not ‘beep’ at airport security. Another mammogram will be done at the end of the procedure to confirm the position of the site marker.
After the biopsy is completed, a nurse will compress (gently push down) on the biopsy site for 10 – 15 minutes, and then place steri-strip bandages on the small skin incision. You will have a bruise that typically lasts for two weeks, and you can manage bruising or discomfort with compression and ice-packs, and pain relief such as paracetamol if needed.
The sample is sent to a pathology laboratory where it is analysed. Results are usually available in 2 to 3 days. The report will be sent to your referring doctor who will then give these results to you. The pathology company may charge a gap for these services. Please discuss this with us if you have any questions.
Before your Scan
Please tell us if you are on medication to thin your blood (e.g. Warfarin, Aspirin or Clopidogrel). You may need to stop this medication before the procedure, but only after discussion with your doctor.
It is important that you have someone to drive you home after the procedure.
It is essential that your previous mammogram and ultrasound films are available at the time of the biopsy. Please bring these with you to your examination.
Risks / Side effects
Potential risks include:
- Infection at the needle site. An aseptic technique (strict infection control practices) is used to minimise the risk of infection.
- Bleeding: mild bleeding in the area may cause it to swell, which should subside after a couple of days. The needle may puncture a blood vessel. Rarely, excessive bleeding can occur and may require drainage.
- Bruising: there may be some mild bruising at the site.
- The biopsy may not get an adequate sample of tissue which may require you to have a repeat biopsy.
- Steri-strips and a waterproof dressing will cover the incision.
- The outer dressing should remain in place for at least 24 hours; the steri-strips are left to gradually lift off after a few days.
- You will be given an ice-pack to use to reduce bleeding and discomfort.
- You can eat and drink immediately after the procedure.
- Avoid strenuous activity for 24 hours following the biopsy.
- You may experience some discomfort following the procedure. A simple analgesic such as paracetamol (Panadol) can provide some relief if needed. Do NOT take Aspirin.
- A small ice-pack applied to the area may help settle the pain.
- Bleeding and infection are potential complications. If you notice any increased redness, swelling, fever or pain, notify your referring doctor or immediately call the clinic where the injection was performed.
If you have not been contacted about your results in 1 to 2 weeks, please contact your referrer.
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