Breast Biopsy: Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before The Procedure

Questions to Ask If You’ve Been Told That You Need a Breast Biopsy

breast biopsyIn the United States about 1.6 million biopsies are performed each year. Women are usually recommended a breast biopsy due to a lump in the breast, the results of a mammogram, an ultrasound examination or the combination of all three.

It’s important to ask your physician the right questions prior to your breast biopsy. According to Medical Director Dr. Jay Harness, there are two types of biopsies that may be performed. So the most important questions to ask you physician are, “Why do I need it? What type of biopsy will it be?”

Find out from Dr. Harness what questions you need to be asking your physician before your breast biopsy.


Dr. Jay Harness:  What questions should I ask if I have been told I needed a breast biopsy?  Let me share some important thoughts with you about that.

You have been recommended to have a breast biopsy it may be because of a lump that’s felt in your breast, the results of your mammograms, your ultrasound examination, or the combination of all three.  You should be asking some questions about the proposed breast biopsy.

The most important question is why do I need it and what type of biopsy will it be?  Basically, there are two choices.  The first choice and what I believe is the standard of care choice is to do a large needle biopsy called a core biopsy.  Sometimes, the needle can be a fine needle aspiration biopsy, but frankly we get more information from the core needle biopsy.

This is certainly the preferable way of doing a breast biopsy when the diagnosis is not known.  Now occasionally, the biopsy needs to be done as an open surgical biopsy and usually for diagnosis, it’s typically not the case at all.

So, if it has been done for diagnosis and your surgeon or doctors oh gosh you need an open biopsy in an operating room, you should be asking a lot of questions.  As I have just indicated really the standard of care is to do needle biopsies when at all possible.

However, the term excisional breast biopsy is also used when you are going to have a benign lump in the breast like a fibroadenoma removed.  That clearly is an open surgical procedure that’s done in the operating room.

So, when it comes to go into an operating room, you need to ask dear doctor, can we do this under local anaesthetic which is a low-risk procedure or if you are going to use general anaesthetic or you are also going to have local anaesthetic so when I wake up I will have less pain.

You also want to know where the incision is going to be made, you want to know if it is going to deform your breasts in anyway, you want to know if the surgeon is going to use an open biopsy, a cosmetically appropriate approach and if the reason as you need the open excisional biopsy is because it can see or feel the area on physical examination, then what technique a wire localization is going to be used.  These are all important questions.  These are questions you should be asking before ever proceeding ahead with a breast biopsy of any kind.  Be informed, be empowered, and ask the right questions.