Printed at: 08:04:13 / 19-05-2024


Sometimes we will need to do a biopsy or needle test to sample tissue from your breast or armpit. Having a biopsy does not mean you have breast cancer, and most often this is done to reassure us and you that all is well.

If a sample of tissue is required this can be done in two ways; a ‘fine needle aspiration’ involves using a needle and syringe. It is similar to having a blood test and we don’t tend to use local anaesthetic for this. This is normally how we take samples from the armpit, and sometimes the breast if you are taking tablets to thin your blood. The second way we take tissue is to carry out a ‘core biopsy’; this is the commonest way that we take samples from breast lumps. We will use a local anaesthetic to numb the skin beforehand.

Most commonly a biopsy will be done using an ultrasound scan to guide us to the area of concern; sometimes, however, the area cannot be seen clearly on an ultrasound and is only shown on mammogram pictures. In this case we will carry out the biopsy while you are having a mammogram, this is known as a ‘stereotactic biopsy’. It is not always possible to have a stereotactic biopsy in a One-Stop clinic, so we may ask you to return on a different day if this is required. We understand that this is an anxious time for you so we will try to bring you back as soon as possible for this. Another reason we may need to delay your biopsy is if you are taking blood thinning medicine (such as warfarin) and you haven’t had a recent blood test to check how thin your blood is; again we will bring you back as quickly as we can once we know it is safe for you to proceed.

You may find that after the local anaesthetic has worn off your breast feels tender and uncomfortable; this is normal and should not worry you. However, for your comfort we advise that you take a painkiller such as paracetamol and wear a bra day and night to support your breast. This may be necessary for up to 48 hours. You may experience bruising, which will vary and in some cases appear quite extensive. This should not concern you. However, if the area becomes red, hot or is becoming more swollen, you should contact your GP who will be able to exclude any infection.

If you have any worries or concerns, however small, please contact our Breast Screening Nurses on 01582 497594, Monday to Friday 9.00 – 16.00