Five Things Friday – Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

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Senior woman at doctor's office talking to female doctor and filling out the form.

Five Questions to Ask About a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

1. What is a stereotactic breast biopsy?

A stereotactic breast biopsy is a minimally invasive method for identifying a growth or abnormality that may appear on a mammogram but cannot be felt during a physical breast exam.


2. Why is a biopsy necessary if the mammogram shows a growth?

When a mammogram indicates that something is there, it may not be possible to determine what that something is without further diagnostic testing. A stereotactic breast biopsy is a way of identifying whether the abnormality on the mammogram is cancerous or benign. In some cases, the suspicious abnormality may be a buildup of calcium that won’t show up on an ultrasound. It is also appropriate if a mammogram shows distortion in the structure of your breast tissue or if a new mass appears at the site of a previous surgery.

The type of biopsy recommended by your doctor depends on your specific situation. Types of breast biopsies include:

  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy
  • Core needle biopsy
  • Ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy
  • MRI-guided core needle biopsy
  • Surgical biopsy – This is the most invasive of the procedures.

If other types of biopsies are ruled out for you, a stereotactic breast biopsy may be the best method to determine the next step on your journey. Your doctor will have the information you need to help you decide.

3. What are the advantages of a stereotactic breast biopsy?

Any medical procedure can be scary, but a stereotactic breast biopsy has advantages:

  • No general anesthesia is required.
  • It is minimally invasive – especially when compared to a surgical biopsy.
  • It requires less recovery time. Often women can resume some normal activities soon after the procedure.
  • Scarring should be minimal.
  • The risk of infection may be less.

4. Exactly what happens during a stereotactic breast biopsy?

The term ‘stereotactic’ means that mammogram X-ray images from two different angles are used to precisely locate the abnormality. The procedure itself usually takes just 15 minutes or so.

stereotactic breast biopsy

As with a mammogram, it is necessary to undress from the waist up. Then you will lie face down on a table with an opening for the breast in question. The table is raised, and the procedure is performed from beneath. Again, as with a mammogram, your breast will be compressed, and the images made.

When the exact area is identified, a needle or vacuum probe will be inserted to remove tissue for testing. The radiologist may insert a small clip or marker at the site of the biopsy. If so, you will need a mammogram that will document the location of the marker. The marker is either stainless steel or titanium and is so small you will not feel it.

When the procedure is over, someone will apply pressure to your breast to stem bleeding. Then they will cover the site of the wound with sterile dressing. You may be given an ice pack to place inside your bra to help reduce bruising and swelling.

Within an hour, you should be on your way with instructions. Most women are quickly able to resume normal life while avoiding strenuous activity for 24-hours.

5. What are the risks associated with a stereotactic breast biopsy?

The risks are low, and complications are rare when compared to other procedures. But, of course, nothing is completely risk-free. You will experience bruising, swelling, and soreness. 

And as your medical team will disclose, there is a very small risk of infection.

Don’t wait!

Doing nothing, however, is NOT an option. You and your healthcare team need solid information to make decisions. You may find that there is nothing to worry about, or you may need to make a plan to defeat a cancerous growth.

If you have questions or concerns about a breast biopsy or any breast cancer-related topic, please contact Albie Aware at (916) 927-1592 or

Mayo Clinic
Cedars Sinai
Radiology Ltd.

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