For decades, women whose mammogram results warranted further exploration had to undergo surgery to obtain biopsy tissue samples. Today, the mammotome stereotactic breast biopsy represents a significant advancement in detecting breast cancer earlier and in reducing the number of invasive procedures for women with malignancies.
The Stereotactic Biopsy Unit at The Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Care Center uses computer images of the breast to map the exact location of the lump. A highly sophisticated software program helps calculate the depth of the mass in the breast with pinpoint accuracy and guides the needle to the lump.
For the procedure, a patient rests face down on an elevated table, with an opening for the breast. The breast is compressed, but much less than with the standard mammogram.
Following a local anesthetic to numb the area, the vacuum-assisted biopsy needle is inserted into the breast through a small incision. The vacuum is used to gently draw, cut and collect tissue into the needle's hollow chamber. This biopsy technique enables several samples to be acquired with just one incision, resulting in a highly accurate breast cancer diagnosis.
Since multiple tissue samples are obtained without removing and reinserting the needle, there is less internal scarring, which minimizes interference with future mammograms and diagnoses of breast abnormalities.The incision is approximately 3 to 4 millimeters in diameter and can be covered easily by a small bandage, leaving little scarring or discoloring of the breast. The only restrictions are limited to lifting the day of and after the procedure.
The mammotome stereotactic breast biopsy is especially helpful in identifying the smallest microcalcifications on in-situ tumors or those limited to the site of the duct, intraductal carcinoma. The procedure also offers multiple views of the breast, while a mammogram may be limited in its view.
A marker can then be placed through the needle to attach to the actual area in the breast to show where the biopsy samples were taken. The marker remains in the site and then guides a surgeon to the small calcifications often not visible with the naked eye.
The procedure takes approximately one hour and is conducted in the Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Care Center. A radiologist, nurse and technician are in the room with the patient at all times.
The stereotactic breast biopsy procedure has been used increasingly in the past six or seven years and is rapidly replacing the open or excisional biopsy as the technique of choice. At the conclusion of the procedure, the sample is sent to a pathologist for evaluation. If the biopsy is malignant, definitive surgery can be scheduled, and patients only have to undergo one surgical procedure.