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Your Biopsy – What to Expect & Tips to Prepare

When your mammogram confirms a lump must be further scrutinized by a biopsy, it’s difficult to squelch the imagination and stop yourself from conjuring up countless worst case scenarios.

Women are particularly adept at imagining the worst and anticipating a biopsy can be pretty darn conducive to such thoughts. The very idea of needles and malignancies is terrifyingly unsettling.

Just the terms core needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration, vacuum-assisted breast biopsy, incisional biopsy and excisional biopsy sound pretty darn daunting. 

While I cannot pretend I was not terrified before my biopsy, I did perhaps surprisingly discover my biopsy experience itself wasn’t that bad. I would not have had to have been so anxious about the procedure itself.

Of course, we all know what they say about hindsight, right?

At my breast center, there was beautiful stain-glass artwork in the windows, coffee simmering and relaxing music and lighting. The nurses and technicians wore regular clothing, and even the changing rooms exuded warmth in the deep-colored wooden cabinetry. Femininity, kindness, respect and compassion were mixed in with the decor.

Breast center staff members understand women, breasts, cancer, fear and anxiety. They know they have no control over what the results of a biopsy might be, but they can control the procedure itself. I don’t think I’ve ever been treated as kindly and gently for any other medical procedure.

Having said this, I wonder how men feel when finding themselves in need of a biopsy in such a center. 

I had an ultra-sound guided core needle biopsy.

Once changed into my pink flowered gown, I was instructed to lie down on a narrow table that felt like I would roll off if I moved or even blinked an eye. I was covered with a warm blanket which immediately relaxed me, and I noticed the procedure room was also dimly lit and filled with pictures of flowers, seashells and other nature stuff. The only discomfort I felt was a slight stinging as the local anesthetic was injected, which took effect immediately. Thank God.

“I’m going to take the first sample now,” my radiologist calmly informed me minutes later.

Immediately, there was a popping sound, sort of like a nail or staple gun shooting off. That’s when the sample was cut, sucked up, collected and saved to be analyzed. It sounded worse than it felt. Five or six samples the size of grains of rice were taken, and each time I jumped a bit even though I knew what was coming. The jolts were startling and unexpected, but not painful.

“Be sure you get enough,” was my only comment. “I don’t want to come back.”

I watched the entire procedure on a computer screen, observing the shadowy-looking clump of darkness that wasn’t supposed to be there and and that would now determine my future.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, the procedure was over. After a short recovery which included plenty of time for instructions and questions, Dear Hubby and I were sent on our way. Another hurdle had been crossed off our list.

If you find a lump, don’t put off a mammogram or totally freak out about a biopsy. You can rest assured your experience will be made as easy for you as possible.

Try not to let your imagination drive you crazy. Easier said than done, I know.

8 tips to help you prepare for your biopsy:

1. Review your mammogram results with your doctor and find out why you need a biopsy and what one will tell you.

2. Biopsies are not emergencies, so plan it to fit around your schedule (this is not an excuse to put it off).

3. Understand the different types of biopsies and learn what kind you are having and why.

4. Ask how long it will take to get results and how you will receive them.

5. Plan to have someone drive you, if at all possible.

6. Get all of your questions answered before signing any forms.

7. Plan to do little when you get home, you’ll need rest, ice and a little TLC.

8. Try not to imagine every possible worst-case scenario and remember, you will get through your biopsy and whatever else you need to too.

What type of biopsy did you have?

What was your experience like?

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8 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your #Biopsy #breastcancer #womenshealth

This post was last updated April 2020

Ashley Telling

Thursday 6th of February 2020

I got a core needle I jumped when the dr said he needed a bigger needle. They came back and said it was a giant Fibroadenoma. I could do what I wanted to do with it. However, after the oncologist at the hospital reviewed the case I was required a lumpectomy at 32. I under went one on December 13th.

Martha Leatherman

Saturday 30th of June 2018

Sorry, but my biopsy was horrible. First, they kept calling it a needle biopsy, but it was a vacuum stereotactic one. Up on a table with boob hanging under, compressed in the mammogram like they were working on a car. Then, the positioning on the table! I'm fairly flexible, and was in misery for 1.5 hours. It felt scary, rapey, degrading, and humiliating. Why not premedicate with xanax or something? They didn't tell me to have anyone with me--so I drove myself, expecting a bandaid. Developed a huge hematoma, fainted twice on the way home, ended up in the ER with BP 90/50 from the pain and blood loss. Now, 2.5 weeks later, my left breast is the size of a cantaloupe; still huge (think tomato) hematoma deep within the breast and all black and blue. They can't do the MRI because of the hematoma, so surgery and staging is put off. No man would allow his privates to hang down and be shot with a needle gun without at least conscious sedation. I'm sick of people saying "women are tough" "I had a baby, I can do this!" Or "was willing to go through anything--just glad they found it early." It does NOT have to be this way. No wonder there are too many bilateral mastectomies for cancers that could be treated with lumpectomy--people can't face going through this again! Can't we start a movement for change in this???

Still Feels Like Yesterday | CureDiva

Thursday 28th of April 2016

[…] comes the biopsy. Then the waiting. And then I hear the words, you have "a" […]


Tuesday 13th of May 2014

I am not sure what happened during my biopsy but it was one of the most excruciatingly painful procedures. I nearly passed out on the table. The Radiologist wanted to stop the procedure but I told him to just get his samples and get out of there quickly. This was my initiation my nightmare. It never got any better.


Wednesday 14th of May 2014

Kerry, I'm sorry your experience was so awful. I suppose it depends on where the tumor is and lots of other factors. My experience wasn't bad. As always, the experience varies from patient to patient. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Kathy H.

Friday 2nd of May 2014

My biopsy showed ductal carcinoma.....I had Stage III B invasive lobular! The ductal diagnosis was all wrong. The little clipping sounds freaked me out! So minor compared to what I have gone through in the past 5 years!


Saturday 3rd of May 2014

Kathy, Yes, those little clipping sounds were strange for sure. I can still hear them... Weird how your diagnosis was all wrong, talk about stressful. You've been through a lot in the past five years I'm sure. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

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