What Is A Non-Palpable Breast Nodule?

When women get mammograms, a technologist looks for abnormal lumps, masses of tissue, or nodules in breast tissue. Sometimes, the radiologist finds a non-palpable nodule. Non-palpable simply means that the lump can’t be felt during a breast exam, but still shows up on a radiology test like a mammogram. Healthcare providers use specific techniques to find the exact tumor location before surgery. This is known as localizing abnormal breast tissue.

mackinaw surgery center Non-Palpable Breast Nodules Localizing Abnormal Breast Tissue Before Surgery

Needle vs wire-free localization

In the past, providers used mammograms or ultrasound guidance to place a thin needle at the site of the nodule. Then, the provider would insert a small wire through the needle. The wire would stay in place with secure tape while the woman moved to an operating room for surgery. When the surgeon was ready to operate, the wire would give the surgeon the exact tumor location.

Now, providers can also use wire-free techniques, thanks to advanced technology. Instead, providers can place a small radiofrequency identification tag in the breast tissue. When the surgeon operates, a small, portable reader detects the tag so the surgeon can find the exact tumor location.

Benefits of wire-free technology

With the needle localization technique, women had to arrive early on the day of surgery to have the needle placed. With wire-free technology, a provider can place the radiofrequency tag at any point before or on the day of surgery. This makes scheduling much easier for women and can also be more comfortable than having the wire protruding from the breast.

Are all non-palpable nodules cancerous?

Just because a radiologist finds a non-palpable lesion doesn’t mean that a woman has breast cancer. Only about 20-30% of these types of growths end up being cancerous. However, women may still need the needle or wire-free localization so that providers can:

  • Locate and remove a sample to find out if the lesion is cancerous
  • Remove tumors that a surgeon wouldn’t be able to locate easily
  • Remove a small amount of healthy tissue around the tumor so that there is no irregular tissue left behind after surgery

Risks and complications

There are few risks associated with localizing breast tissue before surgery. With the needle technique, patients might experience discomfort, swelling, bleeding, or a small risk of infection. With the wire-free techniques, many of these risks lower. To find out more about needle localization and wire-free localization, speak with a healthcare provider.