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Surgical Breast Biopsy


What you need to know about a surgical breast biopsy:

A surgical breast biopsy is surgery to remove a sample of abnormal tissue from your breast. The abnormal tissue is sent to the laboratory and tested for cancer.

How to prepare for a surgical breast biopsy:

  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your surgery. The provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. You may need to stop taking blood thinners or aspirin several days before surgery. The provider will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.
  • You may be given contrast liquid before or during your surgery 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. You may also be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you after surgery.

What will happen during a surgical 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 to numb the surgery area and IV sedation. 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 or she 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 will help decrease bleeding, swelling, and pain at the incision.

What will happen after a surgical breast biopsy:

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may have pain, bruising, or swelling for a few days. 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 surgical 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. You may have scarring or changes in the shape of your breast.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) 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.

Call your doctor or gynecologist if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your incision area 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. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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 incision area 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 area can get wet. Carefully wash around the area with soap and water. It is okay to let soap and water gently run over it. Do not scrub the area. 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 every day for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Do not put powders or lotions on the area.


  • Apply ice on your incision area 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, push or pull with your arms, or play sports. These activities may put too much stress on your incision area. Short walks around the house are okay. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.
  • 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. You may have to 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 doctor or gynecologist 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.

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