The Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber provides a variety of services to help patients and their families cope with the many physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment. We are committed to helping patients regain a sense of control over their lives and feel their best throughout treatment and beyond.
What is breast biopsy?
Breast biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of breast tissue is removed for examination.
Breast biopsy is usually done with local anesthesia (remain awake) but may also be done with general anesthesia.
There are different types of biopsies and your physician will discuss in detail with you the specific procedure you will undergo.
- Before the procedure, blood and urine tests and chest x-ray are sometimes required.
- An intravenous catheter (I.V.) will be placed pre-procedure so that medication can be given if needed.
- If you will receive general anesthesia, you must not have any food or drink after midnight of the night before the procedure.
- Please arrange for transportation home, as you may feel drowsy after the procedure.
After the procedure
If you receive intravenous medication before the procedure to help you relax, you should not operate heavy machinery, drive a car, drink alcohol or make any important decisions for 12 to 24 hours after the procedure. Your physician will let you know when you may resume your regular activities.
What you should know about this procedure
- The doctor will explain the procedure and get your consent if he/she has not already done so.
- You will be assisted into position on the procedure table (most likely lying flat).
- A medication may be given to you at this time to help you to relax. You may begin to feel drowsy. (If you are to receive general anesthesia, you will be prepared for it at this time. You will remain asleep for the procedure and awaken in the recovery room).
- A solution (usually Betadine) will be used to cleanse your skin and a drape will be placed around the area to be biopsied.
- A local anesthetic (usually Xylocaine) is injected in the area of the breast to be biopsied. The anesthetic may initially cause a burning sensation, but within minutes the area should begin to feel numb.
- A sample of breast tissue will be removed surgically and sent to the laboratory for testing. Please inform your doctor if you experience any discomfort during the procedure.
- After the tissue is removed, the area will be sutured and a dressing applied.
- The physician may prescribe pain medication to help relieve any discomfort after the procedure.
- The sutured biopsy site (stitches) should be kept clean and dry. You will be given specific instructions on how to care for the biopsy site by the nurse/physician.
- Please inform your doctor if any of the following occur: fevers, swelling, redness, increased tenderness, warmth, bleeding or drainage at biopsy site.
You can learn more about breast biopsy and watch an animation about needle biopsy from Brigham and Women's Hospital.