Fine Needle Aspiration (Biopsy) Information

What is a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy?

A FNA biopsy involves a doctor placing a thin needle into the breast to remove a sample of cells. The same technique may be used to remove fluid from a cyst. Ultrasound, mammography or clinical guidance (where the doctor feels for the area to be sampled) may be used to place the needle in the correct location. The doctor/s will decide which method is used. This will depend on each woman's individual circumstances. FNA biopsy is one of a group of tests which may be used at assessment to help in the diagnosis of breast conditions.

Although these tests are not 100% accurate, in combination they give the best chance of detecting or excluding breast cancer. Please note that you can withdraw your consent for a FNA biopsy and request that it be stopped at any time.

Will the FNA biopsy be painful?

FNA biopsy is a quick, simple test. Most women do not find it too uncomfortable. If you find the test painful, please let the doctor know. A local anaesthetic may sometimes be used.

Why is a FNA biopsy done?

The purpose of a FNA biopsy is to remove a sample of cells from the area of the breast being checked. These cells are then studied under a microscope. This test can help doctors find out the nature of the breast changes.

How long will the FNA biopsy take?

The procedure usually only takes a few minutes. However, you may be in the biopsy room for a longer period of time.

Are there any risks?

Some bruising, swelling, discomfort or slight bleeding may occur. Very rarely, a serious complication may occur, including puncture of the lung (pneumothorax) or damage to an artery. Should this occur, surgery may be necessary. Infection may occur, however this is extremely rare. If the area is uncomfortable it is recommended that you take paracetamol (eg. Panadol, Dymadon) to ease the discomfort. DO NOT TAKE DISPRIN, ASPIRIN, ASPALGIN OR OTHER PREPARATIONS CONTAINING ASPIRIN, as they may increase the bruising. Cold packs and pressure applied to the area can also help to ease any discomfort and reduce bruising.

If you are concerned about the risks following the FNA biopsy, please contact BreastScreen Queensland staff during office hours or your general practitioner.

What BreastScreen Queensland staff need to know about you

Some medications may cause additional bleeding or bruising. The attached list gives some examples of these medicines. If you are taking any medicines (whether they are on this list or not), please tell the BreastScreen Queensland staff before your FNA biopsy. It is also important for the BreastScreen Queensland staff to know if you have bleeding problems, allergies to local anaesthetic or any serious health problems before you have the FNA biopsy done.

Is any preparation necessary?

As a FNA biopsy is a minor procedure, there is no need to fast before the test. We ask that you do not use any talcum powder, body lotions, creams, perfumes or deodorant on or near the breast area before you have your FNA biopsy.

When will the test results be available?

Most women will be told their results by a doctor within seven calendar days. If you agree, your doctor will also be informed of the results of your FNA biopsy.

How much will the FNA biopsy cost?

Within the BreastScreen Queensland Program, the test is free.

What if breast cancer is found?

Most women who have a breastscreen (screening mammogram) and are called back for further tests do not have breast cancer. A very small number of women will need further specialist treatment because a cancer is found. If this happens to you, it is your choice to either be referred back to your general practitioner or staff at the Service will assist you in making appropriate arrangements for specialist treatment.

What if I need more information?

Specially trained counsellors will be available to provide information and support during your visit. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask the staff at the BreastScreen Queensland Service or phone 13 20 50 for the cost of a local call. We aim to provide you with high quality and friendly care at your visit. Early detection saves lives.