The Importance of the Breast Biopsy

Annual mammograms and any recommended biopsies are crucial to identifying breast cancer early, and early detection can lead to better outcomes.

Middlesex Health uses a special breast biopsy system to perform stereotactic, ultrasound and MRI-guided biopsies at its Radiology locations. These image-guided biopsies allow the radiologist to obtain a small tissue sample for laboratory testing and are less invasive than  a surgical biopsy. 

Using computer guidance, these biopsies can pinpoint the exact location of a breast abnormality, are less invasive than a surgical biopsy and leave little scarring and require minimal recovery time. In addition, image-guided biopsies can be performed in less than an hour, and a small marker is left in place to easily identify the previously biopsied areas on future mammograms.

“Image-guided biopsies are a crucial part of breast cancer screening and diagnosis,” says Dr. Sarah O’Connell, a radiologist and chief of breast imaging at Middlesex Health. “Biopsies identify whether cancer is present and help ensure that appropriate treatment begins as soon as possible.”   

At Middlesex Health’s Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook, a component of the breast biopsy system was at the end of its life and no longer supported by its manufacturer. It needed to be replaced, and that’s where Sails Up 4 Cancer came in. 

Sails Up 4 Cancer is a nonprofit organization based in Connecticut that is dedicated to funding research in the education, prevention, care and cure for all types of cancer through the art and enjoyment of sailing. It generously covered the $20,000 cost, which paid for Middlesex’s new breast biopsy system, as well as the needles that are needed to use it. 

Sails Up 4 Cancer raised the money during a charity regatta on the Connecticut River that was organized by five local sailing organizations: Essex, Essex Corinthian, Duck Island, Frostbite and Pettipaug Yacht Club. It also raised money at the Connecticut Spring Boat Show in Essex.

Bob Davis, CEO and founder of Sails Up 4 Cancer, is a two-time cancer survivor and thanks Ruth Emblin and Carter Gowrie for helping to raise money for this project. They played significant roles in the 2022 Gowrie Group Connecticut River One-Design Regatta, and their dedication and fundraising skills enabled them to help Sails Up 4 Cancer support Middlesex Health in this way. Overall, the collective efforts of the participating yacht clubs, the Sails Up 4 Cancer Board of Directors and the Connecticut Spring Boat Show in Essex made this grant possible.

Davis applauds Middlesex Health for earmarking this donation to enhance the health system’s ability to diagnose breast cancer with the image-guided biopsy system.

Middlesex Health performs about 130 image-guided breast biopsies at its Shoreline Medical Center each year and is grateful to Sails Up 4 Cancer for its support.

“Identifying, treating and beating cancer is a collaborative effort,” says Ryann Nocereto, director of Middlesex Health Cancer Center. “Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, and Sails Up 4 Cancer’s support will go a long way in ensuring that Middlesex Health patients get the care they need when they need it for many more years to come.”

More About Mammograms and Breast Biopsies

It is recommended that all women 40 and older get routine mammograms. If you have a high risk of breast cancer, a medical provider may recommend that screening begin at a younger age.

It is important to note that the state of Connecticut recently expanded insurance coverage for follow-up testing recommended after a mammogram, including breast biopsies. In the past, additional testing often resulted in out-of-pocket costs for patients. Beginning in January, this changed. Commercial insurance carriers can no longer impose cost-sharing measures on certain services. Please check with your insurance provider if you have specific questions about your coverage.