to view an animated version of this procedure.
is when the doctor makes a cut in the breast to remove all or part of a mass. The mass is examined in a lab.
Breast surgical biopsy is done to examine a suspicious area in the breast. It may be done if any of the following are found:
LumpTissue thickeningNipple abnormalityDischarge from the nipple
Abnormal ultrasound or
The biopsy can identify the area as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a breast surgical biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
BleedingInfectionBruisingScarringTissue damageBreast deformityNumbness over the biopsy area
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Chronic illness, like
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
Your doctor may do the following:
Physical exam, especially a breast examBlood testsMammogram
and/or breast ultrasound
Leading up to the biopsy:
Talk to your doctor about your current medicines. Certain medicines may need to be stopped before the procedure, such as:
Blood-thinning medicationEat a light meal the night before your procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.Shower the morning of the biopsy. You may be asked to use a special antibacterial soap.
You may receive the following types of anesthesia:
Local anesthesia—Only the area that is being operated on is numbed.General anesthesia—Blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery; given through an IV in your hand or arm.
There are different ways the doctor can remove the mass from your breast:
You will be given either general or local anesthesia. The skin over the area will be cleaned. A small cut will be made over the area. A sample of the tissue or all of the mass will be removed. The site will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be applied.
Open Breast Biopsy
If all of the mass is removed, then this type of biopsy may be referred to as a
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This technique will be used if
the mass is too deep to be felt, but it can be seen with imaging tests. After the mass is located, a fine wire will be placed into your breast. The wire will point to the spot that needs to be biopsied. A small cut will be made in the area and the mass will be removed.
You may feel pain in your breast after the biopsy. Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Take pain medicine as directed by your doctor.To relieve discomfort, apply a warm compress or a heating pad to the area.Wear a supportive bra.Ask your doctor when you should change the bandages.Restrict exercise for 2-3 weeks after surgery.If you have stitches, have them removed in about a week.
Be sure to follow your doctor's
It will take about 2-5 days to receive your test results.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the biopsy siteNausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicine you were given after surgery, or that lasts for more than two days after the procedurePain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been givenCough, shortness of breath, or chest painPain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC.
Procedures for Primary Care Physicians. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book; 1994.
Sabiston DC, Lyerly HK.
Textbook of Surgery.
15th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co.; 1997.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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