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Breast biopsy

Breast biopsies help us take a closer look for improved diagnoses

It is not always possible to tell from a mammogram whether a growth in your breast is cancerous or not. In some instances, your doctor may recommend performing a breast biopsy to examine the growth more closely.

Novant Health UVA Health System Breast Center offers several leading-edge alternatives to the traditional, invasive, surgical biopsy methods, resulting in significantly less pain and no scarring.

The type of biopsy your doctor recommends will depend on several factors. If you have any questions, please ask your radiologist.

Types of breast biopsy

MRI-guided breast core biopsy

An MRI-guided biopsy uses a strong magnet and radio waves to guide the procedure. The procedure takes a little more time than other biopsies because of the way the images are acquired; however, the actual time it takes to sample the tissue is the same. The breast is gently compressed. Then, the radiologist inserts a biopsy needle into the growth using precise computer control and removes samples of tissue for testing.

  • Available at Prince William Medical Center

Stereotactically-guided breast core biopsy

A stereotactically-guided breast biopsy uses computer technology that enables our radiologists to locate and gather a sample of the precise center of the tissue in question. The breast is gently compressed and then the radiologist uses X-rays to guide a special biopsy needle into the growth and removes tissue samples for testing.

  • Available at Culpeper and Prince William Medical Centers

Ultrasound-guided breast core biopsy

An ultrasound detects breast changes by using high-frequency sound waves. The echo patterns from the sound waves are converted into an image of the breast’s interior. The radiologist will insert the biopsy needle and remove samples of tissue, using the ultrasound image for guidance.

  • Available at Culpeper, Haymarket and Prince William Medical Centers

For your safety

Please inform your physician or the technologist performing the exam if there is any possibility that you are pregnant. Your doctor may postpone the exam to reduce the possible risk of exposing your baby to radiation or recommend non-radiation alternatives.

Preparing for a breast biopsy

  • You may be asked to remove some, or all, of your clothes and to wear a hospital gown during the exam. If you are having an MRI-guided or stereotactically-guided biopsy, you may also be asked to remove jewelry, removable dental appliances, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the images.
  • You should not wear deodorant, powder, lotion or perfume under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam
  • Tell your doctor about all medications that you are taking, including herbal supplements, and if you have any allergies – especially to anesthesia. Your physician will advise you to stop taking aspirin or a blood thinner three days before your procedure.
  • Inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
  • You may want to have a relative or friend accompany you and drive you home afterward. This is recommended if you have been sedated.

What to expect during a breast biopsy

The doctor or technologist will clean the skin over the area for examination. He or she will then inject a medication to numb the area using a very small needle. Several images of the area are then taken, after which a biopsy needle is inserted into the site. A second set of pictures is then taken to ensure the needle is in the correct position. A sample of the tissue is extracted through the needle and examined to determine if the cells are cancerous.

You should not experience any breast scarring or pain with these biopsy methods, although mild discomfort may occur.


A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings and next steps with you.