Breast Surgical Biopsy
En Español (Spanish Version)

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Definition
Breast surgical biopsy 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.

Reasons for Procedure
Breast surgical biopsy is done to examine a suspicious area in the breast. It may be done if any of the following are found:

  • Lump
  • Tissue thickening
  • Nipple abnormality
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Abnormal ultrasound or mammogram image
The biopsy can identify the area as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Possible Complications
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Bruising
  • Scarring
  • Tissue damage
  • Breast deformity
  • Numbness over the biopsy area
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam, especially a breast exam
  • Blood tests
  • Mammogram and/or breast ultrasound
Leading up to the biopsy:

  • Talk to your doctor about your current medications. Certain medication may need to be stopped before the procedure.
  • Eat 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.
Anesthesia
You may receive the following types of anesthesia:

  • Local anesthesia—Only the area that is being operated on is numbed.
  • General anesthesia—You will be asleep during the procedure.
Description of the Procedure
There are different ways the doctor can remove the mass from your breast:

Open Breast Biopsy
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 lumpectomy.
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Needle Localization
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.

How Long Will It Take?
1-3 hours

Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Post-procedure Care
At Home
It will take about 2-5 days to receive your test results. Home care will include using medications or taking self-care measures to reduce discomfort. The care staff will give instructions on how to change any bandages. Doing this will help reduce the chance of infection. Don't return to normal activities until your doctor says it is okay to do so.

Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the biopsy site
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.




RESOURCES:
American Cancer Society


CANADIAN RESOURCES:
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

Canadian Cancer Society

References:
Biopsy. The Breast Cancer website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/biopsy. Updated September 17, 2012. Accessed January 22, 2013.

Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 17, 2013. Accessed January 22, 2013.

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 November 2014



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