Pathology reports and slides were reviewed from 267 mammographically detected impalpable breast lesions, excised after hookwire localisation, There were 182 benign and 85 malignant lesions (benign to malignant ratio of 2.1:1). The invasive cancers tended to be small (mean 13 mm; 50% less than or equal to 10 mm), of low histologic grade (38% Grade I), with a low incidence of lymph node metastases (15%). A high proportion of pure duct carcinoma in situ (DCIS) lesions (21%) was found, and an unusually high proportion of invasive lobular carcinoma (17%), Preoperative fine needle aspiration (FNA) was performed in 95 (36%) cases, including 47 (18%) sampled using sterotactic guidance and 48 (18%) sampled by palpation, The absolute sensitivity of diagnosis of malignancy was 32% and 5% respectively. In 79% of carcinomas further operation was performed, for axillary clearance or re-excision of incompletely excised tumor; this high rate was largely a result of a decision not to use frozen section diagnosis for impalpable lesions and because of the early stages of the development of preoperative needle diagnosis. 58% of invasive cancers, including seven of eight (87.5%) carcinomas with an extensive intraduct component (EIC + ve), and 72% of DCIS were incompletely excised at the first operation. Residual tumor was found in the re-excisions in 26% of EIC - ve invasive carcinomas, 71% of the EIC + ve cases and 56% of DCIS lesions. The malignant lesions had highly favourable prognostic indices. The need for concentration of experience with pre-operative FNA was highlighted. Positive excision margins were a good predictor for residual malignancy, particularly for EIC + ve cases and for DCIS lesions.