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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What is the test?

Stereotactic biopsy of the breast is a special type of large core needle biopsy. It is one method of guiding the biopsy needle to the desired location in the breast. Core needle biopsy can also be guided by ultrasound or by the standard x-ray techniques used in mammography. Large core needle biopsy is often the diagnostic method of choice to evaluate abnormalities that are visible on a mammogram but cannot easily be felt by hand.

Core needle biopsy may not be suitable for women who have:

  • An irregularity close to the chest wall, the nipple, or the surface of the breast

  • Certain types of calcium deposits in the area of concern

  • Very small breasts

In these situations, accurate results from a core needle biopsy may not be possible. Instead, your doctor may recommend a surgical biopsy.

From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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