This test uses a fine needle to remove a sample of cells from inside the breast and/or under your arm (axilla) which will be looked at under the microscope. The test gives the doctor more information about the area being examined.
How is the test done?
This is usually done with you lying down and the whole procedure will take about 10-15 minutes.
The needle test (FNA) can be done immediately if the doctor can feel the area in your breast that he/she wants to sample. This test can usually be done while you are in clinic, or you will be given an appointment to return to have this done.
If the area cannot be felt, the Radiologist (X-ray doctor) or Radiographer will do the FNA with the help of the X-ray (mammogram) or ultrasound machine to guide him/her to the exact area to be sampled.
If the test is to be done using X-ray guidance, this will be done with you sitting in a chair, and having your breast held in the X-ray machine whilst the needle is positioned. Further X-rays will be taken to ensure that the needle position is in the right place. This is called a stereotactic FNA.
If the FNA is to be done using ultrasound guidance, this will be done with you lying on a couch.
Whichever method is used to find the area to be sampled in the breast, a very thin needle will then be passed into your breast or underarm (axilla) to take a sample of the cells.
Will the test be painful?
As all women are different, so is the discomfort that they may feel during the test. Most women say this test is uncomfortable and compare it to having a blood sample taken from their arm. A local anaesthetic may be given.
What about the results of the test?
The results take five to eight working days and an appointment will be made for you to return to the clinic for this.