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  Jerry K. Myers, M.D.



     The needle aspiration biopsy is an excellent adjunct to the breast exam in evaluating and carefully following breast problems. It is also utilized to help confirm a malignancy in a suspicious breast mass so that surgical plans can be made prior to an open biopsy.


     The procedure is a simple one, done in the office at the same time as the breast exam or ultrasound. It is done by making multiple passes into the breast tissue with a small gauge needle under syringe suction to sample the tissue for cytologic analysis. The procedure cytologically evaluates a piece of tissue as opposed to obtaining a tissue biopsy.


     The needle aspirate biopsy is about 95% accurate in the hands of experienced surgeons and pathologists. The only 100% method of diagnosing a breast abnormality is to do an open excisional biopsy.


     Once the specimen is taken from the breast, it is placed on a slide, fixed in alcohol, and sent to the pathologist for cytologic evaluation. The tissue is evaluated and a report returned to the office in 2-3 days. Please call the office at that time for the test results – do not expect the results to be called to you. When the report from the pathologist returns, careful follow-up is mandatory if surgery is not recommended. Follow-up on a patient that has a needle aspiration diagnosis is the same as one that is being followed without needle aspiration.


     Occasionally, when the aspiration is done, a breast cyst is encountered. This is usually good news if the cyst completely aspirates, since it is rare for a breast cancer to be associated with a breast cyst. If it does not aspirate flat, the residual fullness must be dealt with as one would any other breast nodule.


     To summarize, the needle aspirate biopsy is a good tool to aid the breast exam in following and evaluating breast abnormailites. Any suspicious nodule should always be biopsied regardless of the results of the needle aspiration biopsy.