If you have breast calcifications (calcium deposits or microcalcifications) that may be a sign of cancer, how should the needle core biopsy be performed to diagnose them?

The ECIBC's Guidelines Development Group (GDG) recommends that needle core biopsy or vacuum assisted needle core biopsy  are stereotactic-guided rather than ultrasound-guided.

Who is this recommendation for?

  • You had a mammogram or other screening test and the results were unclear
  • You may have been told that you have calcium deposits in your breast which may or may not be a sign of cancer
  • You wish to have the lesion tested and now a sample of tissue from your breast is needed to test for cancer

What would following this recommendation mean for you?

It might be important to speak with your healthcare professional about the unclear results of your mammogram or other screening tests.

You may wish to speak with your healthcare professional about how the stereotactic-guided needle core biopsy (NCB) or stereotactic-guided vacuum assisted needle core biopsy (VANCB) are performed and how you feel about:

  • your comfort during and after
  • the chances of an incorrect diagnosis or finding cancer
  • what happens after you have the results
  • any concerns you have about whether a biopsy could cause cancer to grow faster or spread


Biopsy: is a procedure that obtains a small amount of breast sample from a suspicious area to be tested for cancer.

Needle core biopsy (NCB) uses a larger needle attached to an automated device or a suction device (vacuum-assisted needle core biopsy) to obtain breast tissue.

Needle core biopsy can be guided to its precise location by a mammogram machine connected to a computer (stereotactic-guidance) or by an ultrasound machine (ultrasound-guidance).

Additional considerations

With stereotactic-guidance more women are correctly diagnosed and fewer are told they have breast cancer when in reality they do not.

In addition, with stereotactic-guided NCB, the chances of sampling the relevant lesion associated with the calcification are higher. 

The GDG noted that equipment for stereotactic-guided NCB may not be available everywhere. This means that women may need to be referred where it is available.

Documentation for professionals