One of the toughest things a woman will hear after a mammogram is, "The doctor would like you to have a biopsy." Biopsy is the term for the procedure to remove cells or tissue from a suspicious area of the breast. Those cells or tissue are sent to a laboratory, where a pathologist examines them under a microscope to determine if cancer is present. The sooner a definitive answer is found, the better. Catching breast cancers early means everything in survival rates

At St. Mary’s Breast Center, we use state-of-the-art imaging equipment including 2D and 3D mammograms. The difference between the two is analogous to looking at a deck of cards. The 2D technology is like looking at the deck from top to bottom, while the 3D is like viewing the deck fanned out. Together, these technologies provide great detail and allow the radiologist to see “inside” the breast layer by layer. Not only do these images help catch abnormalities sooner, they actually reduce the number of unneeded follow-ups and biopsies.

If a woman does need a biopsy, the radiologist may employ the use of a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is not something every woman having a biopsy will experience, nor is necessary. But for women with high risk of breast cancer, or a suspicious area that can only be found through MRI, it could be a game changer. In this procedure the patient lies face down on a special table with an opening that fits the breast. Computers along with the MRI are then used to find the tumor, plot its location, and help the radiologist or surgeon aim the probe into the tumor. The test is conducted with and without a contrast dye to highlight locations of suspicion.

Your doctor may recommend one particular procedure over another based on the size, location and other features of the abnormality. Talk with your doctor about why you're having one type of biopsy instead of another.

The results of most breast biopsies will be available within a few days. Sometimes special testing must be performed, and the results may be delayed and take longer. This does not necessarily mean that cancer was found. The radiologist or surgeon performing the procedure will be able to give you a better idea of the approximate time frame and how the result will be communicated to you.

Whatever method of biopsy you face, here at St. Mary’s Breast Center you can be sure you will have a compassionate, expert interdisciplinary team of specialists providing the very best care when you need it most. From the moment you walk-in through diagnosis, treatment and recovery of breast cancer, our team works closely with everyone involved in your care with your best interest in mind.

While you can't do anything about your age, or genetic history, you can reduce your risks for breast cancer in a variety of ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

• Keep a healthy weight.

• Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).

• Get a good night's sleep.

• Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.

• If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about your risk for doing so.

• Breastfeed your children if possible.

If you have a family history of breast cancer or a positive result in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may be at higher risk for getting breast cancer.

Next month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so be sure to get your mammogram! If you have questions, please call us – we are here for you.

-- Christy Myers is a Breast Center Navigator at St. Mary's Medical Center and can be reached at 816-655-5767.