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Jargon buster


A simple method of taking a small sample of tissue for analysis under a microscope to help diagnose a range of conditions. Find out more about biopsies at NHS Choices.

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Surgical Services

Breast biopsy

Contact: (0191) 282 5647 - Ward 45, RVI (7:30am - 6pm)

For weekends and after 6pm contact Ward 46 on (0191) 282 5646 or your Breast Nurse Specialist on (0191) 282 0207 at the RVI.

IntroductionShow [+]Hide [-]

What is breast biopsy?

Breast biopsy is carried out to enable your surgeon to establish a diagnosis or to help to confirm the results of previous tests. It can be the complete procedure or may be a preliminary test prior to further surgery.

The procedure involves being admitted for a day case procedure under general anaesthetic. Having a small incision made in the appropriate breast and a sample of tissue being taken to be sent for histology which involves the sample going to a laboratory and being examined under a microscope. The results usually take a couple of weeks until they are available and so you would be given and outpatient’s appointment before leaving after your biopsy to get your results. 

If the area of breast the doctor wishes to biopsy is only visible on x-ray i.e. Mammogram then you may have to go down to Breast assessment the morning of your biopsy to have a marker wire inserted under x-ray control to pin-point the exact area. You would then return to the ward with the wire still in place before being transferred to the operating theatre.

Before your procedureShow [+]Hide [-]

You may be called for a pre-admission clinic appointment, before your actual date to make sure you are fit for the operation.

If you are prescribed warfarin, aspirin, anti-platelet drugs the oralcontraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy, you may need to stopthese before the procedure; please speak to the surgeon or nurses in pre admission clinic or the ward you are attending.  However, it is very important that you think about other contraceptive methods and your general practitioner will be able to advise you about this.

When attending for your pre assessment you will be given instructions about when to stop eating and drinking and what you may need to bring in with you on the day of your procedure.

What are the risks of breast biopsy?

Any risks or complications will be discussed at the time of signing your consent form.

What are the benefits of breast biopsy?

The surgeon will discuss the benefits of having this procedure and any alternatives at time of signing your consent form.

What will happen when I arrive for my breast biopsy?

The nurse at pre-assessment will inform you of the plan on the day of surgery.

During your procedureShow [+]Hide [-]

What will happen during the breast biopsy?

Your consultant or his registrar will be carrying out the procedure.

The procedure lasts approximately one hour and this includes being put to sleep (anaesthetised) and woken up again.

You will wake up in the recovery area of theatre and the staff their will ring the ward when they feel you are ready to be transferred back to the ward.

Any pain or discomfort can be dealt with by giving painkillers. But in fact the area may be numb if the surgeon has injected any local anaesthetic during the procedure and this could last for several hours.

After your procedureShow [+]Hide [-]

What will happen after the breast biopsy?

You will be transferred back to the ward on a theatre trolley and will stay in the ward until the nursing staff are happy to discharge you home which will be no sooner than 2 hours after returning from theatre and may be longer depending on how you are feeling.

Some patients experience slight nausea after anaesthetic and anti-emetics may be offered if required. The nursing staff will also have to inspect the wound at regular intervals and will also monitor vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse.

The nursing staff will also require you to be tolerating diet and fluids and to have walked independently to the toilet in order to pass urine before being discharged into the care of your family or friends. You will not be allowed home by yourself as you are not thought of as responsible until after 24 hours after an anaesthetic.

A district nurse will be arranged for the day after your procedure if required or you will be given dressings and instructions and contact numbers prior to being discharged. You may have sutures (stitches) which do not have to be removed. However if not then instructions will be given to you to give to the district or practice nurse as to the removal of sutures.

The wound can get wet for bathing (preferably shower) after 72 hours. Avoid scented soaps or deodorants coming into contact with your wound for two weeks.

Returning to work or normal duties is up to individual but you should allow yourself at least 2-3 days.

When will I know the result of my breast biopsy?

You will get your results in the clinic and the appointment will be made before you leave the day case unit.

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