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Breast Biopsy


What you need to know about a breast biopsy:

A breast biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of abnormal tissue from the breast. The abnormal tissue is sent to the laboratory and tested for cancer. Your healthcare provider may do a needle biopsy or an open biopsy.

How to prepare for a breast biopsy:

  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. He may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You may be given contrast liquid during your procedure to help the breast tissue show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. An MRI may also be used during your procedure. Do not enter the procedure room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body. Also tell him if you are pregnant or think you are pregnant. Special shields can be used during the procedure to keep your baby safe.
  • Do not put on deodorant, lotion, or powder on the day of your procedure. These products may cause particles to appear on your x-ray. Wear loose-fitting clothing to your procedure. Arrange for someone to drive you home after your procedure.

What will happen during a needle breast biopsy:

  • You may be given IV sedation to help you relax during your procedure. You may also be given local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during your procedure, but you should not feel any pain. You may be given contrast liquid through your IV to help your breast tissue show up better in pictures.
  • Your healthcare provider will make a small incision in your breast and insert a needle. The size and type of needle may depend on where the abnormal tissue is located. It may also depend on how large the abnormal tissue is. He may use x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI pictures to help guide the needle to the correct place. When the needle reaches the lump or abnormal tissue, samples will be taken. Your healthcare provider may use a syringe or small vacuum to help remove the tissue.
  • After your healthcare provider takes samples, he may mark the area with a small wire or metal clip. He may also inject the area with liquid dye. This will help other healthcare providers find the abnormal tissue at a later time. The needle will be removed and a small bandage will be placed over your incision. Your healthcare provider may also wrap a tight-fitting bandage across both breasts. This may prevent bleeding, swelling, and pain at the incision.

What will happen during an open breast biopsy:

You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given local anesthesia and IV sedation. Local anesthesia will numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel any pain. IV sedation will help you relax during surgery. Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your breast and remove all or part of the abnormal tissue. He will close the incision with stitches or strips of medical tape. A bandage will be placed over your incision. Your healthcare provider may also wrap a tight-fitting bandage across both breasts. This may decrease bleeding, swelling, and pain at the incision.

What will happen after a breast biopsy:

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may need an x-ray if a marker was inserted during your procedure. This will make sure that it is in the correct place. Bruising or swelling at the incision is normal and expected. Do not breastfeed for 24 to 48 hours if you received contrast liquid. The contrast liquid may harm your baby. You may go home after your procedure or you may need to spend a night in the hospital.

Risks of a breast biopsy:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. A pocket of blood or fluid may form under your skin. You may need surgery to drain or remove it. The biopsy needle may cause a hole in your lung. This may cause problems with your breathing. You may need other treatments or procedures to fix the hole. If you have an open biopsy, you may have scarring or changes in the shape of your breast.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • Your bruise suddenly gets larger and feels hard.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • Your pain does not get better after you take medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

If you have a tight-fitting bandage, you can remove it in 24 to 48 hours, or as directed. Ask your healthcare provider when your incision can get wet. Carefully wash around the incision with soap and water. It is okay to let soap and water gently run over your incision. Do not scrub your incision. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. If you have strips of medical tape, let them fall of on their own. It may take 10 to 14 days for them to fall off. Check your incision every day for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pus. Do not put powders or lotions on your incision.


  • Apply ice on your incision for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Rest for 24 to 48 hours. Do not run, lift anything heavy, or play sports. These activities may put too much stress on your incision. Short walks around the house are okay.
  • Drink plenty of liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. This will help flush out contrast liquid from your body.
  • Wear a supportive bra as directed. Wait until you remove the tight-fitting bandage to wear a bra. You can wear a sports bra or a wireless bra that fits snugly. A supportive bra may help decrease swelling and pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.