Fine Needle Aspiration at Mission Bay

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Fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a type of biopsy in which cells are removed from a lump by a needle and syringe. The cells are evaluated under a microscope to determine the nature of the lump. Benign growths, cancer and infections can be diagnosed. Special tests can be applied to these small samples to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, including tumors of the breast, lymph nodes and thyroid. Diagnosis is usually made within two to three days of the procedure.

At UCSF's Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy Clinic, specialized pathologists who diagnose diseases at the cellular level, called cytopathologists, offer consultation services, evaluate patients and perform same-day biopsies. Lesions, which are not easily felt, can be biopsied with the use of ultrasound imaging.

No appointment is required for an FNA biopsy. Patients who walk in and register are usually seen within an hour.

You'll need a referral from your primary care provider or specialist to make an appointment. Once you have the referral, please call the number below.

Getting Here

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy Clinic
Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building
1825 Fourth St., Fourth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7043
Fax: (415) 353-7676

Hours: Monday to Friday
9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Additional Locations
Fine Needle Aspiration at Mount Zion

What to Bring

  • Insurance card
  • Referring physician order
  • Identification

Access Your Health Information Online

This clinic uses UCSF MyChart, an online patient service. Message your provider, request medication refills, view some test results and more.

Learn more about UCSF MyChart

The Procedure

Patients who walk in and register are usually seen within an hour. Please allow at least an hour for your visit including time for registration, preparation and the procedure.

The Procedure

First, the doctor will ask some questions about the lump — where it is, how and when you first became aware of it, and if you've noticed any changes in it. Next, the doctor will feel the lump. If the lump if not easily felt, the doctor may use an ultrasound machine to visualize it.

Holding the lump with one hand, the doctor will sample the lump with a thin needle. The doctor may use an ultrasound machine to visualize the lump and the needle within it. Usually, two to three samples are obtained to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Each sample takes about 10 to 30 seconds to obtain. The procedure from start to finish takes about 20 to 30 minutes for lumps that are easily felt. Procedures that require the use of ultrasound may take considerably longer.

After the Procedure

Fine need aspiration biopsy, when performed by an experienced doctor, should have no significant complications. The most common problems after the procedure are bruising and tenderness in the area of the biopsy for a few days.

Discomfort can be treated with over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or the application of an ice pack for short periods after you return home.


Fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed on a walk-in basis. A referral from your primary care doctor or other health care provider is required but no appointment is necessary.

Patients who have insurance with a health maintenance organization (HMO) need prior approval from their HMO. For more information, call (415) 353-7043.