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Breast Surgical Biopsy

(Biopsy, Breast Surgical; Breast Open Biopsy; Biopsy, Breast Open; Breast Needle Localization; Localization, Breast Needle)

Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.


Definition    TOP

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    TOP

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 for:

  • A lump
  • Tissue thickening
  • Nipple abnormality
  • Leaking from the nipple
  • Abnormal ultrasound or mammogram

Possible Complications    TOP

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will go over some problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Bruising
  • Scarring
  • Tissue damage
  • Breast deformity
  • Numbness over the area

These factors may raise the risk of problems:

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Chronic disease such as obesity or diabetes
  • Bleeding problems

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do blood tests.

Leading up to the biopsy:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. Certain medicine may need to be stopped before the procedure.
  • Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Shower in the morning. You may be asked to use a special antibacterial soap.


You may be given:

  • Local anesthesia—Only the area that is being operated on is numbed.
  • General anesthesia —You will be asleep.

Description of the Procedure    TOP

There are a few ways the doctor can remove the mass:

Open Breast Biopsy

A small cut 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

nucleus factsheet image

If all of the mass is removed, then it is called a lumpectomy.

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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 found, a fine wire will be placed into the breast. 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?    TOP

1-3 hours

Will It Hurt?    TOP

Anesthesia will prevent pain. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medicine.

Post-procedure Care    TOP

At Home

It will take about 2-5 days to get your test results.

Do not return to normal activities until your doctor says it is okay to do so. Follow your doctor’s instructions.


Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, pain, bleeding, or leaking
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you can't control with the medicines you were given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs

American Cancer Society

Cancer Care


Canadian Breast Cancer Network

Canadian Cancer Society


Breast biopsy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-biopsy.html. Updated October 9, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.

Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women . Updated January 23, 2018. Accessed January 29, 2018.

General information about breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq. Updated November 2, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.

Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 5/15/2018

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