No one likes needles. Okay, there are perhaps a few colorfully tattooed people who say they don’t mind them… but who actually really loves needles? Not us. Unless they are used to save lives.
You may be most familiar with needles in IVs and for flu shots. But in our area of breast health expertise, there is another reason for using needles: biopsies. You’ll notice there are no colorful pictures with this post. Why? Because patient anxiety can be high and we don’t want to add to anxiety unnecessarily!
On the positive side, in a recent study, we found some useful information on how needle breast biopsies are tolerated by women. In a sample population of women getting imaging-guided core-needle breast biopsies, the majority of women reported minimal to only mild pain.
To review, ”imaging-guided” means that technologies like ultrasound or mammography are used to help guide needle placement to an area of concern in the breast tissue. “Core-needle” refers to the needle used to obtain a small amount or core of tissue which is removed and sent to the pathologist for evaluation. The pathologist is the specialist physician expert at diagnosing diseases like breast cancer, often from small needle samples of tissue.
How did the women rate their pain? Nearly 40% of those in the study reported zero pain. The largest segment (nearly 50%) of the study gave a range of 1-3 on a scale of 10 in terms of discomfort. That leaves a tiny percentage of women experiencing real discomfort. This means that for most, the necessary procedure was tolerable. Commence breathing with ease!
Now, for those who did experience discomfort, higher anxiety played a role. How to combat that anxiety? Information like this may help - knowing what to expect is a key to handling what’s to come. Conversations with the doctor(s) recommending and performing the procedure are also key to understanding, preparing for and knowing what to expect. Knowledge is power!
So should your breast imaging study lead to a need for a breast biopsy, rest assured - the procedure is generally well-tolerated. A favorite fact and one to further help relieve a little of that anxiety? Most breast biopsies will yield benign results- not cancer! So if a biopsy is in your future know we will do our best to take care of you at every step and get you on the road to your best possible health!
For more on the study, look here.
Originally published 7/17/14 on mammographykc.com.