About Breast Biopsy

 As an alternative to surgical breast biopsies, the NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) mammography department offers a variety of needle biopsy procedures. Radiologists specializing in mammography perform these needle biopsies at all three NorthShore hospitals using imaging guidance techniques specific to the patient's individual circumstances.

  • Needle biopsies are minimally invasive and do not require stitches
  • Patients having a needle breast biopsy may be advised against aerobic activity and strenuous lifting on the day of the procedure
  • We recommend stopping any aspirin containing medicines, vitamin E, herbal supplements and blood thinning medications for several days prior to the procedure since they can promote unnecessary bleeding and bruising
  • Once a needle biopsy is performed, results are generally available within 48 hours
  • In many cases, a needle biopsy can confirm a benign diagnosis and eliminate the need for any further intervention or surgery. If surgery is ultimately required, the initial needle biopsy can provide the breast surgeon with invaluable information, allowing for a customized surgical approach

Ultrasound Guided Biopsies

These procedures are performed with the patient lying on her back.  After injecting a local anesthetic medication into the breast, a needle is inserted to remove a sample which is sent to the Pathology department for thorough analysis.

Core Needle Biopsy

This procedure is performed with a needle fitted with a special tip.  The needle goes through the skin to the lump or area of interest to take out a sample of tissue about the size of a pencil lead.  A core needle biopsy can also be done using a suction unit that gently removes a larger sample of tissue.

Needle Aspiration Biopsy

A thin needle is placed through the skin into the lump and removes cells for further evaluation.  Needle aspiration may be done to see if a lump is solid or fluid-filled (cyst).  If a lump is a cyst, it will go away after the fluid is removed.

Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

During stereotactic breast biopsies, the patient is lying on her stomach, with the breast positioned through a hole in the table while breast compression is applied from underneath the table. Selective digital mammographic images are obtained during the procedure. A dedicated computer system guides the radiologist to the exact location within the breast. NorthShore hospitals use a special needle system which is attached to a mild vacuum, maximizing the tissue retrieved and allowing for extremely accurate tissue sampling.

MRI Guided Biopsy

Using MRI guidance to calculate the position of the abnormal tissue and to verify the placement of the needle, the radiologist inserts the biopsy needle through the skin, advances it into the lesion and removes tissue samples. If a surgical biopsy is being performed, MRI may be used to guide a wire into the mass to help the surgeon locate the area for excision.

The widespread use of this technique is limited by its higher cost and length of the procedure. MR-guided biopsy should not be considered if the lesion can be seen on mammography or on ultrasound, where the biopsy can be performed more easily with less patient discomfort. In those cases, stereotactic breast biopsy or ultrasound-guided biopsy are the more appropriate methods of tissue sampling.

Schedule an Appointment

Biopsies are scheduled at the four hospitals only and are usually scheduled by the mammography nurse

  • Evanston Hospital Office Building
    1000 Central St., Room 860
    Evanston, IL
    847.570.1070
  • Patricia Nolan Center for Breast Health
    2050 Pfingsten Road , Ste. 130
    Glenview, IL
    847.657.5845
  • Highland Park Hospital
    777 Park Ave. West
    Highland Park, IL
    847.480.3744



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