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Core biopsy of breast or axilla

Read our guide below about a core biopsy of the breast.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

What is a core biopsy?

It’s a safe and simple method of getting a non-surgical diagnosis of breast lesions.

It’s done using local anaesthetic with ultrasound or x-ray guidance (stereotactic biopsy). You’ll have a small incision in your skin to insert the biopsy needle.

We’ll normally take between 3 and 10 samples of tissue for the pathologist to make a diagnosis.

Often we’ll need to insert a small tissue marker at the biopsy site to mark the area from where we take the tissue samples. The clinician will explain this to you and ask for
your consent if they need a tissue marker.

If you take warfarin or other medication to thin your blood, this procedure may not be suitable for you. We may arrange to stop your medication for a few days before the biopsy.

Call us on 01494 323300 as soon as you get your biopsy appointment so that we can advise you.

What are the possible complications?

This procedure is usually complication free but you may get some:

  • pain either during or after the procedure (the breast or in the armpit)
  • bruising (haematoma) of the breast.

What can I expect after the biopsy?

Applying pressure to the area after the biopsy can reduce the chance of bruising. You’ll have a dressing which you need to keep on for 24 hours.

If you get further bleeding after leaving hospital, apply firm pressure to the area for about 10 minutes.

It’s common to have bruising which you may have for a couple of weeks. Avoid exercising the arm on the side of the biopsy for 24 hours to minimise bruising.

Keep the area dry.

You may have mild pain or discomfort as the local anaesthetic effect wears off. Take some of your normal pain relief tablets if needed, preferrably paracetomol instead of ibuprofen.

What if I have excessive bleeding?

It’s unlikely this will happen but if you do have excessive bleeding or your breast swells, apply firm pressure to the area for at least 10 minutes.

If you’re concerned, call the Breast Unit for advice on 01494 323300 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm). Tell them you’ve had a core biopsy of the breast or axilla.

How can I help reduce healthcare associated infections?

Infection prevention and control is important to the wellbeing of our patients so we have procedures in place. Keeping your hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infections.

You, and anyone visiting you, must use the hand sanitiser available at the entrance to every ward before coming in and after you leave. You may need to wash your hands at the sink using soap and water. Hand sanitisers are not suitable for dealing with patients who have symptoms of diarrhoea.

More help or advice

Contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 01296 316042 or

About our patient information

We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it’s subject to change. You must always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Contact us

Breast Unit
Breast Screening Breast Care Nurse
Breast Care Nurses
Breast Unit

01494 323300

Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 4.30pm.


Breast Screening Breast Care Nurse

01494 426109

Breast Care Nurses

01494 426228