FNA: A Better Approach for Breast Biopsies
Finding a lump in your breast can be quite upsetting. Add to that the thought of going through a procedure to find out what the lump is, and the situation may seem downright frightening. Unfortunately, a significant number of women who have abnormal mammograms undergo surgical biopsies for a diagnosis, instead of the less invasive and safer fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy procedure. According to a study in The American Journal of Surgery, the rate of open surgical biopsies is approximately 30 percent. This rate should be significantly lower.
Many of these women are having unnecessary open surgery to diagnosis their abnormal mammogram. In fact, about 80 percent of breast biopsies are not cancerous. Therefore, open surgery is not the best option for most of these cases. It costs more and often causes more stress on the patient. A fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, on the other hand, is a quick and relatively painless way to get an answer to the question of whether a breast lump is cancerous or not.
What is an FNA Biopsy?
The purpose of a biopsy is to obtain cells to make a diagnosis via a microscopic examination. A standard surgical biopsy requires a local or even general anesthetic, and an incision (cut) in the skin. An FNA biopsy, however, is a much less invasive procedure. As the term implies, the doctor uses a very thin hollow needle. The needle is inserted into the lump and some of the tissue in the lump is withdrawn, or aspirated. This tissue is then examined under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.
What’s the Procedure Like?
A fine needle aspiration biopsy can be performed in the doctor’s office, instead of in a hospital or surgical center. The skin is carefully cleaned and the doctor may inject a little local anesthetic. If the lump is easy to feel, the doctor can simply insert the needle directly into the tissue. In other cases, the doctor will use an ultrasound to locate the lump to ensure the needle is in the right position.
Advantages of an FNA
A fine needle aspiration biopsy is faster, less invasive, less expensive and safer than conventional surgical biopsies for breast cancer. The procedure itself takes approximately 20 minutes, including the ultrasound time. Withdrawing the sample takes seconds. Bruising and bleeding are minimal, although there may be a little swelling after the procedure. Since the procedure is minimally invasive, a small Band-aid is usually an adequate dressing. And, you’ll be able to resume your normal routine soon afterward.
Additionally, an FNA biopsy is such a minor procedure, it has relatively no effect if further surgery is necessary. However, with an open surgical biopsy, a woman with breast cancer will end up needing another operation after the surgical biopsy. This means two operations instead of one.
Best of all, the diagnosis can be made quickly – in some cases, the results are available within a day or two. This lessens both the physical and emotional stress for the patient.