Ultrasound is an excellent way to evaluate breast abnormalities detected by mammography, but in some cases it is not possible to tell from the imaging studies alone whether a growth is benign or cancerous. Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy is a highly accurate way to evaluate suspicious masses within the breast that are visible on ultrasound, whether or not they can be felt on breast self-examination or clinical examination.
Breast ultrasound is a form of diagnostic imaging performed to help locate and examine any abnormal tissues inside the breast and guide the biopsy needle toward them by exposing your breasts to high-frequency sound waves that create images of the breast tissue. These images are captured in real-time and can show the movement of the inner organs, along with blood flowing through blood vessels in the area. A breast biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows your doctor to analyze any abnormal breast tissue in great detail to determine whether the tissue is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy Procedure
With an ultrasound-guided biopsy there is no need to remove tissue surgically, and radiation exposure from using x-rays to locate a mass is eliminated. A single site or multiple sites may be biopsied. Before the ultrasound-guided biopsy begins, gel will be placed on your breast(s) to help the transducer pick up sound waves as it is moved back and forth across the breast. After placing the ultrasound probe over the site of the breast lump and local anesthesia has been administered, a biopsy needle is inserted directly into the mass.
Tissue specimens are then taken using either an automatic spring-loaded or vacuum assisted device (VAD). A tiny metal clip may be inserted into the biopsy area to mark it for possible future surgery. The needle will then be removed. You may experience some pressure or mild discomfort during the exam, and numbness afterward as the anesthesia wears off. There is no suturing needed after a breast biopsy because the incision is so small.
The tissue samples that were removed will be assessed in a pathology lab, where a detailed pathology report is created. Information such as the initial location of each biopsy and whether or not they are cancerous are included in this report.
Post-Biopsy Procedure Care
At the end of the ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, a bandage and an ice pack are placed over the affected area. Pressure may be applied to the site to curtail any bleeding. Shortly afterward, you will be sent home. The remainder of the day should be spent relaxing at home; day-to-day activities can usually be resumed approximately 24 hours later. Bruising and discomfort may occur after a breast biopsy, but over-the-counter pain medication is usually sufficient to alleviate any residual aches or tenderness.
As with any biopsy, results may not be available until a few days after the procedure has taken place. In the event of breast cancer, the report will include specific details on your condition so that an effective treatment plan can be started. There are also a number of noncancerous or precancerous conditions that can be identified in a biopsy. In some cases, the results will be inconclusive, requiring additional testing to determine whether or not you have breast cancer. We will discuss the results with you and answer any questions you may have.