Differences between core biopsy of the breast and a stereotactic needle placement

Lawrence J. Solin, M D, F ACR
Last Modified: January 20, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

What is the difference between a core biopsy of the breast and a stereotactic needle placement?  


Lawrence J. Solin, M D, F ACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

A core biopsy is when a large size needle is inserted into the breast tumor and a piece of tissue is removed for study in the lab. A core biopsy of a breast lesion is done for diagnosis, generally to determine if a breast lesion is benign or malignant. Also, a core biopsy can be done to confirm that a highly suspicious lesion is, in fact, a carcinoma to help with planning treatment.

Stereotactic needle placement is done by a radiologist as part of a biopsy or core biopsy procedure. During a stereotactic biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed from the breast using a hollow needle, which is accurately guided to the lesion via X-ray, mammography, and precise computer coordinates. The stereotactic needle placement helps to locate a lesion, which cannot be felt but is seen on mammography. This needle placement helps guide the surgeon to remove the correct area of mammographic abnormality at the time of the biopsy.