A breast abnormality on an exam or mammogram raises many emotions and concerns. The next step is usually to undergo a biopsy procedure. Prior to 1995, most women in Chattanooga in need of breast biopsy were sent to the operating room. University Surgical Associates (USA) was the first to bring innovative technology that allowed breast biopsy to be done in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia. Today, USA Breast Services is excited to once again be at the forefront of new, even more advanced technology with the Hologic Affirm 3D breast biopsy system. The new system is located in the USA office on Gunbarrel Road and allows for better imaging, faster targeting and fewer x-rays, resulting in shorter procedure time and reduced radiation exposure.

“In simple terms, a biopsy is a procedure where a small amount of tissue is taken from the body to be examined more closely. If your mammogram shows an area that needs further evaluation, one of the biopsy techniques available through USA Breast Services is stereotactic breast biopsy,” says Laura Witherspoon, M.D., breast surgeon with USA and medical director, Erlanger Center for Breast Health. “We use computer aided technology to guide a needle to the exact point of the abnormality that was picked up by the mammogram. Images are taken from many different angles to ensure the sample of tissue is removed from the correct location.”


Patients having the biopsy lie prone on the table. The ergonomically engineered cushions provide custom, targeted pressure-point support to improve comfort. “Our patients who have had biopsies on both tables rave about how much more comfortable the new table is,” says USA mammography technologist Jennifer Smith.

The Hologic breast biopsy system uses 3D imaging to scan the breast in just a few seconds, producing a 360-degree view to pinpoint the exact location for the tissue sample. The surgeon scrolls through the images, marks the target area on the screen, and is able to precisely position the biopsy device. A small incision is made, and the needle is advanced to the exact point of concern. A few samples are taken to ensure there’s enough for diagnosis, and a tiny marker is placed at the biopsy site. USA surgeons can biopsy areas that previously would have required surgery and complete them more quickly and more comfortably than ever before. This form of biopsy is a less invasive alternative to surgical biopsy, requires little recovery time, and scarring is minimal to none.

“This advanced technology allows surgeons to do more than ever before with stereotactic breast biopsy, and it means we can provide an enhanced level of care for women with suspicious lesions. In years past, lesions in hard to access areas meant patients had to choose between waiting three to six months to see if the lesion changed and going to surgery for a definitive answer,” says W. Todd Cockerham, MD, USA breast surgeon. “The Hologic system helps us accurately identify and biopsy suspected lesions, determine whether an abnormality in the breast is cancer or benign, and offer patients greater peace of mind throughout the process.”


After a stereotactic breast biopsy, samples taken will be sent to a pathologist for complete analysis. We understand that this can be a difficult time of waiting. That’s why results of the biopsy are available within 24-48 hours from the time it’s performed. When necessary, the surgeons at USA Breast Services perform breast cancer surgery and coordinate breast cancer care and therapy with other specialists. They also offer unique services that include facilitating referrals for specific therapies, support groups, risk assessment and counseling, breast health education, enrollment in clinical trials and much more.

At University Surgical Associates, we are committed to providing the best possible patient care. For more information about our comprehensive breast services or to schedule an appointment for risk assessment, breast biopsy or surgical consultation, please call (423) 267-0466.