Biopsy for Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Needle (Wire) Localization
This type of biopsy is performed when you have an abnormality seen on a mammogram that cannot be felt. It is an outpatient procedure, and is performed in two steps on the same day.
Step I — Radiology: Find the Abnormal Tissue
In a sitting or standing position, your breast will be positioned for a mammogram to find the exact location of the abnormal tissue. Once the area is identified, a radiologist will numb your breast with a local anesthetic. A needle is inserted and a small wire threaded through the needle. The tip of the needle is placed near the abnormal tissue. Accurate placement of the wire is checked by mammogram. The wire is securely taped in place.
Most women report no pain, but feel pressure and pulling. Some women feel faint or dizzy. If you have any unusual symptoms or sensations, tell the technologist assisting you or your radiologist so they can help you.
Step II — Same Day Surgery: Biopsy the Abnormal Tissue
During this biopsy, the abnormality identified on a mammogram is surgically removed.
You will be brought by wheelchair from radiology, where the wire was inserted, to same day surgery. Family or friends may be with you before and after the wire localization, but not during the procedure.
The biopsy is an excisional biopsy, meaning that the abnormality seen on mammogram is surgically removed. You will be given the anesthesia that you and your physician have discussed. The surgeon uses the wire implanted earlier to locate the abnormality and remove it in the operating room. The specimen, once removed from the breast, is then sent to radiology to be X-rayed. The radiologist and the surgeon communicate to confirm that the abnormality seen on mammogram has been removed.
Most women do not experience a marked change in the appearance of the breast beyond the surgical scar. In general, your surgeon will be able to tell you where the incision and scar is expected to be on your breast. The swelling and bruising that you may experience will resolve. You will, however, be able to feel lumpiness near the surgical site from scar tissue after the biopsy.
This procedure is generally well tolerated and most patients return to their full range of activities by the next day. However, occasionally there are patients who experience considerable pain, swelling and discomfort after this procedure. These symptoms should be reported to your doctor.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Biopsy for Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy
Your health care providers may refer you for a fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) if a lump is discovered in your breast. Learn more here.
Biopsy for Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Stereotactic Core Biopsy
Stereotactic core biopsy was developed as an alternative to surgical biopsy. It is a less invasive way to obtain the tissue samples needed for diagnosis.
Biopsy for Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Surgical Breast Biopsy
Find information to help you prepare for your upcoming surgical breast biopsy. If you have any questions, contact the Breast Care Center at (415) 353-7070.
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