to view an animated version of this procedure.
Breast surgical biopsy is surgery to remove all or part of a breast mass. A lab will check the sample to see if there is something unusual about it.
Reasons for Procedure
Breast surgical biopsy is done to look at a suspicious part of the breast. It can find out of the spot is cancerous or not.
It may be done if there is:
- A lump
- Tissue thickening
- A nipple change
- Leaking from the nipple
An abnormal ultrasound or
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over problems that could happen, such as::
- Damage to tissues
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
The doctor may give:
Description of the Procedure
There are a few ways the doctor can remove the mass:
Open Breast Biopsy
A small incision will be made over the area. Part or all of the mass will be removed. The site will be closed with stitches or staples. It will be bandaged.
Open Breast Biopsy
If all of the mass is removed, then it is called a
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This method is used if the mass cannot be felt. Imaging is used to guide a fine wire to the breast through a needle. The wire will point to the spot that needs to be removed. A small cut will be made and the mass will be removed.
How Long Will It Take?
1 to 3 hours
Will It Hurt?
There will be some discomfort after the procedure. Medicine will help.
Average Hospital Stay
Most can home the same day.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, the staff may give you pain medicine.
During your stay, staff will take steps to control your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incisions
Pain should go away in a week or so. Swelling may last for a few weeks or months. Some activities may be limited during this time.
It will take about 2 to 5 days to get test results.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Excess bleeding, redness, swelling, or discharge from the incision site
- Lasting nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicine
- Problems breathing or chest pain
- Pain and/or swelling in the feet, calves, or legs
Breast biopsy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-biopsy.html. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Breast cancer—health professional version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/hp. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/breast-cancer-in-women. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Kalambo M, Dogan BE, et al. Step by step: Planning a needle localization procedure. Clin Imaging. 2020;60(1):100-108.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 9/21/2021