Detecting & Living with Breast Cancer For Dummies
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Medical outcomes are always better when the patient plays an active role. The same holds true for a breast biopsy. When you know what to expect, you're likely to be less anxious and take the steps necessary to reduce risks.

Soon after your biopsy is scheduled, the doctor who will perform it (a radiologist or breast surgeon) should inform you of the type of biopsy you will have. They should explain why it was chosen, discuss the benefits and risks, and briefly describe the procedure. You may receive a packet that includes a description of the procedure and instructions explaining what to do to prepare for the procedure (such as stop taking certain medications and arrange for someone to drive you home afterward).

If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to call the office and ask.

Biopsy risks are associated primarily with allergies or sensitivities to any medications used during the procedure, reactions to the general or local anesthetic, other health conditions you may have (such as diabetes), and other medications you take or substances you consume. Possible complications resulting from the procedure include bruising or pain, bleeding, hematoma (solid-like mass or swelling of clotted blood at the site within the tissues), infection, slow healing, or scarring.

Team up with your doctor to reduce risks:

  • Tell your doctor if you have any allergies, so your doctor knows to avoid using certain medications.
  • Tell your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medications such as aspirin, warfarin, heparin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, because these medications may increase bleeding at the biopsy site. (To reduce bleeding, stop using these medications for seven days prior to the biopsy or as instructed by your doctor.)
  • Tell your doctor if you have a history of diabetes and whether you have good diabetes control. Poor diabetes control can delay wound healing at the biopsy site and increase the risk of infection. To improve your diabetes control you must take your prescribed medications (for example, tablets or insulin) as ordered, eat the recommended diabetic diet with reduced carbohydrates, exercise regularly, and test your blood glucose level with your glucose machine (glucometer) as recommended by your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if you smoke tobacco products or products that contain nicotine (such as cigarettes, chew tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and so on). Nicotine reduces oxygen to the tissue and can cause delayed wound healing and increase the risk of infection. Your doctor may recommend that you stop smoking or cut down on the amount of tobacco you smoke for several days before and after the procedure.
  • Don't use lotion, powder, perfume, or deodorant under your arms or on your breast prior to the biopsy procedure because these products can show up on the imaging or cause local skin reactions when combined with the sterilizing agent used to clean the skin. For that reason, it is usually recommended the skin be clean and free of cosmetic products.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Marshalee George, PhD, is Faculty and Oncology Nurse Practitioner at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of Surgical Oncology at Johns Hopkins Breast Center.

Kimlin Tam Ashing, PhD, is Professor and Founding Director of City of Hope's Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education. Together they have over 40 years combined experience in treating breast cancer patients through diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and recurrent illness, as well as survivorship and follow-up care.

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