Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Fine Needle Breast Biopsy: About This Test

Main Content

Fine Needle Breast Biopsy: About This Test

What is it?

A breast biopsy removes a sample of breast tissue that is looked at under a microscope. It's done to check for breast cancer or other problems. For a fine needle breast biopsy, your doctor uses a thin needle to take a small sample of fluid or cells from the breast for testing.

Why is this test done?

A fine needle breast biopsy is done to check a breast lump or look at a suspicious area found on a mammogram or other imaging.

How do you prepare for the test?

If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your test. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.

How is the test done?

For a fine needle breast biopsy, your doctor inserts a thin needle into the lump or tissue. If the lump cannot be felt, your doctor may use ultrasound to guide the needle.

After the needle is removed, pressure is put on the needle site to stop any bleeding. The area is covered with a bandage.

How does the test feel?

You will feel only a quick sting from the needle if you have a local anesthetic to numb the biopsy area.

How long does the test take?

A fine needle breast biopsy will take from 5 to 30 minutes. But it also takes time to prepare before the biopsy, so you can expect your appointment to take longer than this.

What happens after the test?

  • You'll be told how long it may take to get your results back.
  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • After a specialist looks at the biopsy sample for signs of cancer, your doctor's office will let you know the results.
  • If the test results aren't clear, you may have another biopsy or test.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • You can go back to most of your usual activities right away. But avoid heavy lifting for 24 hours.
  • The site may be tender for 2 to 3 days. You may also have some bruising, swelling, or slight bleeding.
    • You can use an ice pack. Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
    • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter T808 in the search box to learn more about "Fine Needle Breast Biopsy: About This Test".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.