Image-Guided Breast Biopsy

If your doctor wants to check for cancer, you may receive a breast biopsy at Johnston Health in Clayton or Smithfield. This test uses imaging technology to guide a physician in taking tiny samples of tissue to examine in a lab.

Why Do I Need a Biopsy?

A biopsy reveals more about your health after a mammogram shows a suspicious lump, calcium cluster, or change in breast tissue. Your doctor will recommend the right type of test for you:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided breast biopsy – Uses magnets and radio waves to show where to remove a tissue sample
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy – Uses mammography equipment to show where to remove a tissue sample
  • Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy – Uses sound waves to create pictures of abnormal breast tissue and show where to remove a sample

What to Expect

After your imaging procedure, your doctor cleans the skin on your breast and injects medicine to numb it. Then, the physician makes a tiny nick in your skin and inserts a thin needle into the lump that needs examination. A small vacuum may help pull tissue into the needle.

The doctor may leave a tiny clip in the breast to mark the location of the biopsy in case you need more testing later. This clip will remain in your body permanently, unless you have breast surgery or your doctor determines it needs to come out. It should not cause pain.

How to Prepare

Follow these instructions to make your biopsy go smoothly and get accurate results:

  • Do not take blood thinners for five days before the exam
  • Avoid wearing deodorant, powder, lotion, perfume, or jewelry on the day of the test
  • Tell your doctor if there’s any chance you’re pregnant
  • Bring a list of your medications to the exam


A pathologist will examine your tissue sample in a lab and send a report to your doctor. Your doctor will share the results with you and discuss next steps.

Most likely, the unusual breast tissue is benign (not cancer). But if you receive a diagnosis of cancer, count on Johnston Health for expert cancer treatment and support throughout your journey.

Talk to Your Doctor

If your doctor orders an imaging procedure at UNC Health Johnston, you’ll get a call from Community Wide Scheduling to make an appointment.

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