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Surgical Breast Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I 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 do I 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.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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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