Breast Biopsy: Key to Diagnosing Breast Cancer

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It's 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.

We offer several leading-edge alternatives to the traditional, invasive, surgical biopsy methods. This means significantly less pain and no scarring.

The type of biopsy your doctor recommends will depend on several factors. 

Types of Breast Biopsy

A biopsy removes a small bit of tissue from a lump or growth. We then examine this sample to see if any cells have cancer. At UVA Health, we have several technologies to make sure we get the right tissue sample.


An MRI-guided biopsy uses a strong magnet and radio waves to guide the procedure. 

Stereotactically Guided 

The radiologist uses X-rays and computer technology to guide a special biopsy needle to the right location for a very precise procedure.


An ultrasound detects breast changes by using high-frequency sound waves. The echo patterns from the sound waves create an image that guides the procedure.

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 need to remove jewelry, removable dental appliances, eye glasses, and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the images.


  • Don't wear deodorant, powder, lotion, or perfume under your arms or on your breasts.
  • Tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you're taking.
  • Tell your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
  • Have a relative or friend come with you and drive you home.

What to Expect During a Breast Biopsy

We first clean your skin. We'll then numb the area with a very small needle.

We'll then:

  • Take several images of the target area
  • Insert the biopsy needle
  • Take more pictures, to make sure the needle is in the right place
  • Extract tissue through the needle

We'll look at the sample tissue to see if there's cancer in any of your cells.

This procedure shouldn't hurt, but you might have some mild discomfort.