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What is a Mammotome®?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 17, 2024
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A Mammotome® uses an MRI, ultrasound, or x-ray technique along with a vacuum-aided device to perform breast biopsies. The procedure removes a miniscule sample of healthy tissue and the incision is so tiny, about 0.25 inch (0.635 cm), no stitches are required. A Mammotome® is normally treated as an outpatient procedure and requires only a local anesthetic.

The vacuum-aided device used for a Mammotome® utilizes a computerized system to isolate the precise location of a breast mass on a mammogram. Unlike the formerly common core needle biopsy that used several needles to gather samples, the Mammotome® probe is inserted one time only. Its accuracy is also superior to the core needle approach.

In addition to being more accurate than previous procedures, the Mammotome® approach involves minimal pain, almost invisible scarring, and requires no recovery time. It takes less than an hour to perform a biopsy using this technique, and patients are able to immediately resume daily work or recreation activities. Analysis of the results is normally completed before the patient leaves the clinic or doctor's office. This system can also be successfully used to detect non-cancerous breast lumps, called fibroadenomas.

The Mammotome® is a simple and relatively quick in-office procedure. The physician first sterilizes the skin on the breast and then numbs the area of concern with a local anesthetic injection comparable to the type used by dentists. The device provides precise direction to the area of abnormality so only one probe is needed.

Once the probe is in place, the sample of tissue is extracted into the device's sample compartment. Then the sample is delivered to the surgeon or radiologist for analysis. The sample is normally comprised of eight to ten tissue samples gathered from 360° around the incision.

The Mammotome® procedure normally, although not always, provides a reliable diagnosis of the breast mass. The majority of patients also reported that in addition to being a fast procedure, this technique was also much less traumatic both emotionally and physically than the core needle biopsy. Another plus is that cancer that is initially discovered with a Mammotome® biopsy requires only one operation for treatment instead of two.

Several different companies make vacuum-assisted breast biopsy systems. Mammotome® is just one brand, made by Johnson & Johnson. Tyco also makes one known as the Minimally Invasive Breast Biopsy (MIBB™) device. More recently, a hand-held version, also known as a handheld vacuum biopsy (HHVB) has become available making access to this procedure more widespread.

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