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Vacuum-assisted Biopsy (VAB)

  • What is a vacuum-assisted biopsy (VAB)?

    Biopsy for breast cancer screening

    A vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is a tissue sampling method that removes multiple samples of tissue for histological examination. It is the most common alternative procedure to traditional core biopsy in managing suspicious breast lesions, as it allows multiple cores of tissue to be removed with a single insertion.

    The area of abnormality within the breast is precisely located using either an ultrasound or mammogram. Without the need to do open breast surgery, the doctor can do a biopsy by making a 5mm incision to collect tissue samples from the suspicious area of the breast. Two known devices commonly used for vacuum-assisted biopsy are Mammotome and SenoRx.

    This minimally invasive breast biopsy procedure can be done in an outpatient setting in a doctor’s office under local anaesthesia or as a day surgery procedure under sedation. The doctor can make a precise analysis with minimal pain and scarring, as well as faster recovery time for the patient. The entire procedure generally takes less than an hour, and the patient can return to normal daily activity afterwards.

  • If your doctor sees something suspicious on the result of your mammogram, breast ultrasound or MRI, a breast biopsy may be necessary to check if there is evidence of malignancy. A biopsy is one of the medical procedures used to diagnose or rule out breast cancer. Your doctor may recommend vacuum-assisted breast biopsy because it is safe compared to other tissue sampling techniques.

    There are tiny masses in your breast that can only be detected by a mammogram and may require a breast lump biopsy to evaluate the tissues thoroughly. Additionally, the vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is likely the type of procedure that your doctor may recommend because it is safe compared to other tissue sampling techniques.

  • Preparing for a vacuum-assisted biopsy

    • You may be allowed to eat a light meal before the procedure if it is to be done under local anaesthesia.
    • A loose-fitting garment should be worn to be easily removed during the test.
    • Avoid using talcum powder under your arm as it may cause problems with the imaging studies.
    • Most importantly, you should coordinate with your doctor if you are taking any blood-thinning medications or aspirin to know if you are safe to undergo the breast biopsy procedure.

    During a vacuum-assisted biopsy

    Initially, your breast is cleaned, and local anaesthesia is given to numb it. With the assistance of a mammogram unit or ultrasound, the surgeon places the special probe into the suspicious part of your breast. Once the special probe is in place, a rotating cutting device then removes a tissue sample carrying it through the probe and into a tissue collection area. Several cycles may be taken until all suspicious breast areas are sampled to determine whether there is cancer or other conditions. A clip may be inserted after removal of the lump to mark the location of biopsy should a further surgery be required (in cases of proven malignancy).

    After a vacuum-assisted biopsy

    After the breast biopsy, you may experience swelling and bruising, so it is imperative to do self-care as soon as you get home. You may apply a cold pack to the biopsy site every 1 – 2 hours to relieve the temporary bruise and inflammation. For the pain, which may manifest as breast tenderness, you may take non-aspirin oral pain relievers containing acetaminophen.

    Results of the breast biopsy should be ready in 3 – 5 days.

    Risks/complications of a vacuum-assisted biopsy

    Despite the proven safety benefits of vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, it still carries a slight risk of complications. You may be at risk of infection after the procedure, so it is crucial to be vigilant of any new symptoms. If you notice any excessive swelling, bruising, or redness at the breast biopsy site, call your doctor right away.

    For a guide on breast biopsy procedures (including VAB) that you can refer to easily, download our brochure ‘Breast Biopsy: All You Need to Know’.

  • Women’s health is one of Parkway East Hospital’s areas of expertise. We provide comprehensive services for the diagnosis and management of women’s health conditions like breast lumps, nipple problems and other breast changes.

    To check whether your breast concern is caused by cancer or a less serious problem, your doctor may recommend a breast cancer biopsy, a medical procedure that you can avail at Parkway East Hospital. Our doctors have years of experience in doing minimally invasive breast biopsy. Our specialists are trained to carry out vacuum breast biopsy. To complement their expertise, the medical team is equipped with mammotome biopsy device, which helps the doctor make a diagnosis with minimal pain and scarring for the patient.

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