Surgical Breast Biopsy: Your Experience

Woman talking to healthcare provider.A surgical breast biopsy is done to remove a small piece of tissue from the breast. A small cut (incision) is made in the skin over the changed part of your breast. The tissue sample is taken out through this cut. This tissue is then sent to a lab to be studied. Most surgical breast biopsies are done in a hospital or clinic. They are often done on an outpatient basis. This means you will go home the same day.

Understanding the risks

Risks that may happen with surgical biopsy include:

  • Excessive bleeding or bruising

  • Infection

  • Problems from the anesthesia

  • Poor wound healing

  • Change in breast shape

  • False-negative result

Before the biopsy

Tell your surgeon about any medicines, vitamins, supplements, or herbs you take. This includes prescription medicines. And it includes over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin. Some of these may affect your body’s response during surgery. On the day of the biopsy, wear a loose shirt that buttons in front. Also, be sure to arrange for a trusted adult to drive you home.

After the biopsy

In most case, you can go home the day of the biopsy. You may have bruising and swelling for a few days. If you need them, your surgeon may prescribe pain medicines. Be sure you know what type of pain medicine you can take if you need it. Ice packs can also help ease minor soreness or swelling. Leave your bandage (dressing) on for as long as your surgeon suggests. Also, follow your surgeon’s advice about bathing and exercise.

  • Don't do any physical work or strenuous activity for the first 24 hours after the procedure. You can usually return to your normal routine after this brief period of rest.

  • Ask how long you should use a waterproof ice pack over the biopsy area. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth to protect your skin. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.

  • Ask when your bandage can be taken off. Also ask when you can take medicine again, including aspirin.

  • You may have a bruise for 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure. This is normal. You may also have a tiny scar. Ask about wearing a supportive bra to help with discomfort.

  • If you have fever, excessive bleeding, swelling, or other problems, call your healthcare provider.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you will get the results of the biopsy and who will explain them to you.

When to call your surgeon

Call your surgeon if you have any of these:

  • A fever over 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Increased pain, warmth, or redness at the incision site

  • Severe swelling that doesn’t go away in a few days

  • Drainage from the incision site

  • Bleeding that soaks through the dressing

Talk with your healthcare provider about what problems to look for and when to call them. Know what number to call with questions or problems, including after office hours, on weekends, and on holidays.