Are you preparing for a breast biopsy? Learn more about this procedure to feel confident that you know what to expect.

What is a breast biopsy?

A breast biopsy is a procedure to receive a small breast tissue sample for testing. Lab specialists or pathologists analyze the blood and tissue of the sample to provide a diagnosis.


A doctor may recommend a breast biopsy if they notice an abnormal lump or thickening in the breast or if your mammogramultrasound or other breast exam shows a suspicious area. The results can confirm whether the biopsied sample is cancerous and if additional treatment or surgery is needed.

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How to prepare for a breast biopsy

The morning of your appointment, you:

  • Can eat as usual.
  • Should not wear deodorant or other cosmetics in the armpit and breast area.
  • Can take Tylenol but should avoid other pain relievers.

Before a breast biopsy, it is important to tell your doctor if you:

  • Have taken aspirin in the last week.
  • Are taking any medications, specifically blood-thinners.
  • Have any allergies.
  • Cannot lie on your stomach for an extended time.
  • Have a cardiac pacemaker or another device.
  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.

What to expect during the breast biopsy

Depending on the size and location tested, several types of breast biopsy procedures can be done, including:

  • Core needle biopsy: A radiologist or surgeon will remove tissue samples from the breast using a thin, hollow needle. An ultrasound or MRI can guide these. Several samples the size of a grain of rice will be taken to the lab.
  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: As the simplest form of biopsy, your doctor will insert a thin needle into the lump on your breast. The needle is attached to a syringe that collects samples of cells or fluid from the area. This biopsy is a straightforward way to differentiate solid masses and fluid-filled cysts.
  • Stereotactic biopsy: While lying facedown on a padded biopsy table, your breast will be compressed between two plates for the radiologist to make a small incision and remove samples from the area inside the breast. You may be in this position for 30 minutes to one hour.
  • Surgical biopsy: This procedure involves the removal of some or all of the abnormal area in the breast. Like other surgical procedures, sedation is usually given, and a local anesthetic will numb the affected area. Once removed, the mass will be taken to the lab to ensure the entirety has been removed and whether it has cancerous properties.

What to expect after the breast biopsy

All breast biopsy options except the surgical biopsy allow you to go home with bandages and an ice pack over the site. You can resume your typical activities as long as you take it slow and easy. It may be several days before your results will be available.

It is normal to experience bruising, especially after core needle biopsy procedures. To reduce discomfort, take a pain reliever containing acetaminophen, like Tylenol — do not take aspirin.