If a breast examination or mammogram shows a cyst or lump or if a lump is found on the thyroid gland (which is near the throat, just under the Adam’s apple), your doctor may request a fine needle biopsy, also known as fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC).
During this procedure, a doctor uses a very fine narrow needle to remove fluid from a cyst or clusters of cells from a mass, so they can be examined under a microscope. This technique is considered minimally invasive and allows for very rapid diagnosis. As well, there is no scarring or stitches and no recovery period is required.
Needle Biopsy Wait Time in Canada
As a result of rationing of care by the Canadian public health system and the limited availability of doctors, your treatment may be delayed. Because time is so important for cancer diagnosis, and because you shouldn’t have to worry needlessly about a benign condition, Timely Medical Alternatives can help you find a private clinic to expedite your case so you can get the treatment you need as quickly as possible.
What happens during a fine needle biopsy?
This procedure is performed under local anesthetist. The doctor uses a very small hollow needle (smaller than those used to draw blood) that is attached to a syringe to extract fluid from a cyst or cells from a mass. A number of insertions are usually required. The doctor may need to use ultrasound to help locate the mass, in the case of a thyroid biopsy, or ultrasound and mammography in the case of a breast biopsy.
The cells are then placed on a microscope slide, stained, and examined by a pathologist.
Risks of Needle Biopsies
Bruising, soreness, bleeding and, vary rarely, infection are all possible risks of fine needle biopsies for the breast and thyroid. Probably the more important risk is that of a “false negative” – that is, that the test will miss the problematic cells because it is so small. For the same reason, there is also a risk that the cells taken do not enable a definitive diagnosis.
These risks should be weighed against the benefits of a rapid diagnosis leading to faster care with the appropriate specialist.
Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
A pathologist at the clinic will analyze the slides from your fine needle biopsy and send a report with his or her interpretation to your doctor.