Breast biopsies are typically outpatient procedures, meaning that you will not need to spend a night in the hospital. Most procedures take between a few minutes to an hour and use localized anesthesia. However, before undergoing a breast biopsy, it is still essential to learn about the different biopsy options so you can partner with your doctor to make the best decision.
Before the procedure, make sure to let your doctor know if you have any recent illnesses or new medical conditions, and whether you have any allergies, especially to anesthesia. If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, it’s also important to discuss this with your doctor before getting any scan that uses radiation, such as an x-ray. If you will be getting a surgical biopsy, you may also need to stop taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications a few days beforehand.
If you will be sedated, you will need to arrange transportation home after the procedure.
Before having a breast biopsy, ask your doctor to explain:
- The results of your mammogram or other breast imaging exams.
- The specific area on your breast: knowing the location of the biopsy will help you to envision it.
- The type of biopsy you need: if this is a surgical biopsy, ask if a less invasive technique would work for you. Needle biopsies are appropriate in about 90 percent of cases.
- How and when you will get the results: typically, doctors have the results within a few days to a week.
The results of your breast biopsy will help guide your next steps. If the results are benign (non-cancerous), no further treatment may be necessary. In other cases, your doctor may recommend additional surgeries or procedures to remove cancerous tissue that is identified, such as with lumpectomy or mastectomy.
Recovery time depends upon the type of breast biopsy. For less invasive biopsies, you should be back to your normal activities within 24 hours. Surgical biopsies — both incisional and excisional — have a longer recovery.
For most breast biopsies, over-the-counter pain medicine and ice packs can ease pain and reduce swelling. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes in any way.
As with any procedure, a breast biopsy has risks and possible complications, including:
- Bruising or swelling in the breast
- Changes in breast size, shape, or appearance
- Reactions to anesthesia
After your breast biopsy, your care team will send a sample of your tissue to a lab for analysis. Based on the results of this analysis, your doctor will inform you of the appropriate next steps for treatment, if treatment is required.
The most likely result of a biopsy is that the growth is not cancerous. The majority (60-70 percent) of breast biopsies find benign tissue.
However, if cancer is identified, a biopsy will help guide your treatment plan. This may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or surgeries, including lumpectomy to remove cancerous cells or mastectomy to remove breast tissue and prevent spread of cancer cells.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.