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Open Breast Biopsy: Before Your Surgery

Before and after breast biopsy

What is an open breast biopsy?

An open breast biopsy is surgery to remove abnormal breast tissue. It's mostly done when the results of a needle biopsy are uncertain.

To show the location of the abnormal breast tissue, a small wire can be put in the area during a mammogram or ultrasound just before surgery. The wire will guide the doctor to the area to be checked.

The doctor makes a cut in the breast to remove part or all of the abnormal breast tissue. Once the tissue is removed, the doctor will close the cut with stitches or strips of tape.

The breast tissue will be sent to a lab. There it will be examined under a microscope to check for breast cancer. Your doctor may get some answers right away. But it can take up to 1 to 2 weeks to get the final results.

You will be able to go home on the same day as the biopsy. Most people are able to go back to work in 1 or 2 days. This depends on how you feel and the type of work you do. For 2 weeks after surgery, you will need to avoid bouncing and strenuous activities that involve the upper body.

The surgery will leave a scar on your breast that will fade with time. Less often, the surgery may leave a dent in the breast. You may be able to feel a hard area where the biopsy was done. This is a normal part of the healing process. It does not mean that the lump is growing back. The area will get softer in the weeks after surgery.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. 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.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
  • Bring a comfortable, supportive bra or chest binder with you. For the first 3 days after surgery, you may need to wear this all the time, even at night.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • A mammogram or ultrasound may be done to show the doctor where the abnormal breast tissue is. A small wire may be put in the area to be biopsied. During surgery, the wire will guide the doctor to the correct area.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 1 hour. It also takes time to prepare before the surgery. And you can expect to be monitored after the surgery for an hour or so.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

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