Affirm: New Tool for Breast Cancer Diagnosis


ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — As many as 1.6 million breast biopsies are done in the United States every year. As doctors try to rule out, or diagnosis breast cancer. Now a new system allows radiologists to more precisely target suspicious areas during a twenty-minute outpatient procedure.

Fifty-year-old Lisa Smith eats right and lives a healthy lifestyle every day. It’s one way she’s getting her life back on track as she wraps up her breast cancer treatment.

Smith told Ivanhoe, “Feeling much stronger. My food taste normal again. My energy is back.”

Smith’s doctors at a St. Louis hospital diagnosed her cancer at an early stage. They were among the first in the country to use the affirm 3D biopsy system.

Debbie Bennett, M.D., the director of Breast Imaging at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, detailed, “Before the affirm system came along there wasn’t a great way to biopsy abnormalities that we could only see on the 3D mammogram.” (Read Full Interview)

The big difference for patients, they are lying face down with their breast exposed through an opening. Technicians work underneath.

Dr. Bennett explained, “If a patient is lying on their back, their breast is actually going to be very flat.  What we need is to be able to spread the tissue apart so we can precisely pinpoint one area of the breast.”

A computerized unit under the table help doctors accurately direct the biopsy needle. A tiny hole in the tip allows them to remove a tissue sample about the size of a grain of rice. Although Smith’s biopsy showed she was positive she was glad the testing process was precise.

Smith said, “It’s very targeted. Done in real time, no digging around. No guessing.”

Smith’s first grandchild was born the day before she started chemo. She’s thankful for a diagnosis and treatment that will keep her around for the people she loves.

Researchers in Europe were among the early test sites for affirm. They said doctors are able to visualize more tissue and conduct a faster procedure than traditional mammogram-guided biopsy.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.




TOPIC:       Affirm: New Tool for Breast Cancer Diagnosis

REPORT:   MB #4228


BACKGROUND: When a doctor finds a bump or lump in the breast during mammogram, follow-up tests are performed to rule out cancer. In most cases, doctors order a breast ultrasound or MRI.  If the results don’t lead to a clear image, a breast biopsy is performed. A breast biopsy consists of removing cells or tissue from the lump to be examined. The results of the biopsy will determine if cancer is present. Each year, around 1.6 million breast biopsies take place in the United States, but most of the time, these biopsies do not show signs of cancer.
(Source: &

TYPES OF BREAST BIOPSIES: There are several types of biopsies that exist to rule out breast cancer:

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy, where a very thin needle is used to withdraw a small amount of tissue from the suspicious area.
  • Core needle biopsy, guided by an MRI, CT scan, and sometimes vacuum-assisted, this biopsy uses a larger needle to sample breast changes felt by a doctor or seen in a mammogram.
  • Surgical biopsy, rarely performed, consists of taking part (incisional biopsy) or the entire (excisional biopsy) mass, as well as surrounding breast tissue, out of the body to be examined.
  • Lymph node biopsy, most often examined at the same time as the breast tumor to check that no lymph nodes under the arm are enlarged.


AFFIRM: Affirm is a new 3D biopsy system that allows patients to save time in the procedure, get final results faster, and decrease the number of false positives. With any type of biopsy, the test results can take a few days and sometimes even up to a week to be completed. Furthermore, the preparation for surgical biopsy consists of fasting the night before, reserving an operating room, getting an IV, and going under general anesthesia. With Affirm, patients only have to go through local anesthesia, since the procedure only lasts a few minutes. The procedure is performed underneath the patient since they are placed in the table face-down. The 3D biopsy allows for a very minimal recovery time and it is the perfect option for patients, especially younger patients, who have dense breast tissue.
(Source: Dr. Debbie Bennett,


Jason Merrill


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Debbie Bennett, M.D.

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