Ultrasound Breast Biopsy

If you have discovered an abnormality in your breast, the next diagnostic step is likely an ultrasound breast biopsy. This biopsy extracts a portion of suspicious tissue for analysis by a pathologist.

Ultrasound technology allows your healthcare provider to quickly and accurately identify changes that might indicate the development of serious illness. Ultrasound tools use soundwave energy to generate images of internal anatomical structures and eliminate the need to expose patients to radiation from X-ray, computed tomography (CT scan), or mammography technology.

Here’s what you need to know about having an ultrasound breast biopsy.

Medical image of a biopsy needle being inserted into a breast.

Why would I need a breast biopsy?

If an anomaly (e.g., a lump, skin thickening, skin texture change, nipple color change, or evidence of nipple discharge) is discovered during a breast self-examination or routine screening, your physician will schedule a breast biopsy to test for cancer or other potentially serious medical concerns.

Your doctor may require a breast biopsy after a diagnostic mammogram, breast MRI, or breast ultrasound shows an unusual growth or mass within the breast.

What does a breast biopsy do?

An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy allows your medical team to identify potentially dangerous changes to your breast tissue early and with minimal discomfort.

A breast biopsy might be conducted in one of several ways. One of the most common procedures is an ultrasound-guided core needle breast biopsy. A core needle is a hollow needle into which tissue and fluid samples can be collected.

The patient lies on an examination table while the doctor runs a handheld ultrasound device over the breast until the suspicious mass becomes visible on a computer screen. The doctor then makes a small incision near the mass so the needle can be inserted. The needle is then inserted into the mass so tissue samples can be withdrawn. Typically, several samples are extracted.

Another type of breast biopsy technique is a vacuum-assisted device biopsy. This procedure uses vacuum suction to draw the sample into the device. The needle is then withdrawn, the clinician applies a dressing to the surgical site, and the tissue is sent to the pathologist for examination.

How do I prepare for a breast biopsy?

Please discuss the following with your physician:

  • If you have allergies
  • If you have taken aspirin within the week of the scheduled procedure
  • If you are currently taking any blood-thinning medication
  • If you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant

Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions prior to your procedure.

How long does a breast biopsy take?

An ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy takes approximately one hour. Your doctor will give you a detailed breakdown of your procedure during your consultation.

What are the risks of a breast biopsy?

Ultrasound-guided breast biopsies are minimally invasive procedures and do not carry the same risks of complications as open surgeries. However, there is a minor infection risk at the biopsy site, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s aftercare instructions closely.

Common issues experienced after a breast biopsy include:

  • Minor bruising
  • Inflammation
  • Redness

It isn’t unusual to experience discomfort after the procedure. Ice packs and over-the-counter acetaminophen medications like Tylenol are effective for reducing pain.

Both patients and physicians prefer ultrasound-guided breast biopsies to traditional surgical biopsies because they are significantly less painful and more efficient. They also offer the following benefits:

  • Less damage to breast tissue than surgical biopsy
  • No radiation exposure
  • Effective for visualizing and retrieving tissue growths in difficult-to-access regions, like under the arm

Please note that a doctor's referral is required for a breast biopsy and all other services except for Mammogram.