What to expect?

A breast biopsy is a procedure where a sample of breast tissue is taken so that it can be assessed by a pathologist to determine its make-up. The lesion itself is not removed during the procedure but the sample comes from the lesion.

What happens on the day?

The procedure is performed using imaging guidance which can be either ultrasound or mammography. The Radiologist determines what imaging will be used when you arrive on the day.

If the biopsy is done under ultrasound, the area where the lesion sits is constantly monitored whilst the biopsy takes place. If the biopsy is done under mammography, several images will be taken to ensure the accuracy of the biopsy site.

If you are having your procedure done under ultrasound you will be asked to lie on your back. If you are having your procedure done under mammography you will be either sitting or lying on your side.

What is a Breast Biopsy?

A Breast Biopsy is a sterile procedure. Your skin will be cleansed and some local anaesthetic will be injected into the region of the breast biopsy. This will numb the area before the biopsy takes place. You may feel some discomfort during the procedure, but it would be very unusual if you experienced severe pain. The Radiologist will then carefully take some samples from the breast lesion. The samples will be sent to pathology for analysis.

How long will it take?

The whole procedure takes about 30 minutes. It is very important that you get as comfortable as possible before we start because we need you to keep as still as possible during the procedure.

Is the procedure painful?

We inject local anaesthetic into the site of the lesion. Whilst this may sting a little, it really reduces the discomfort of the procedure.  You may experience some bleeding at the site but this will be controlled by the Radiologist who will constantly monitor how you are feeling during the procedure. After the procedure a small dressing will be placed at the site of the biopsy.

Most women say they feel some minor discomfort but it is very unusual for the pain to be severe.

What are the risks?

The most common risk is bleeding. This should be minor. The Radiologist will ensure that it is controlled before leaving the practice. If you are on any blood thinners or anti-platelet drugs e.g. warfarin or heparin please let us know. Most patients will experience some bruising or skin discoloration at the site of the biopsy but this will resolve within a few days.

Post Biopsy Instructions

After you have had your breast biopsy, a dressing is applied over the site. The Radiologist may choose a paper dressing or a waterproof dressing if a large tissue sample has been taken. If you have a paper dressing this can be removed after 4 hours. If it is a waterproof dressing this can be removed after 48 hours. You can shower with this dressing and if it falls off before the 48 hours this should not cause you any concern.

It is common for there to be some bleeding after all biopsies and some bruising and skin discolouration is usual. The Radiologist will ensure that the bleeding has stopped before you leave the practice. If, in the unlikely event that bleeding starts again, you should apply pressure over the skin site with your hand until the bleeding is under control.

You may experience some pain after the local anaesthetic wears off. We recommend that you wear a supportive bra and take Panadol for pain relief.

Very rarely will the site of the biopsy become infected and look red and swollen. If this happens a course of antibiotics may be required.

Most women are able to continue their normal activities but if you have a large tissue sample removed it is advisable that you don’t do any lifting, stretching or pulling for at least 12 hours. The Radiologist will advise you of this on the day.

How long do the results take?

After the biopsy is sent to pathology it is analysed at their laboratory. The results will be then sent directly to your referring doctor.

When will I get the results?

Your referring doctor will have a copy of your biopsy report within 48 hours of the procedure. You should make an appointment to discuss the imaging and pathology result with them and talk to them if you are concerned about the biopsy site.

Things you should know

  • This procedure takes about 30 minutes
  • The local anaesthetic may sting a little but will really minimise any discomfort of the procedure
  • You will get your results with 48 hours at your doctors
  • Most women are able to continue their normal activities afterwards