Surgical Biopsy Procedures

Not long ago, most women undergoing surgery for breast symptoms had a one-step procedure: If the biopsy showed cancer, the surgeon immediately proceeded with a mastectomy. You would wake up after the surgery not knowing if your breasts were intact.

Today, you have more options. Usually, a biopsy and treatment are separated by several days or weeks. Such a two-step procedure does not adversely affect your recovery, and it does provide several benefits. It allows more time for testing and diagnosis. You can review your treatment options, seek a second opinion, consult family and friends, receive counseling, and arrange your schedule. Each case is different, and you should choose the treatment that is personally right for you.

Under rare circumstances, a one-step procedure is still recommended today , particularly for women who are ill or frail, or have unusual results from their needle biopsy. In the one-step procedure, some or all of your suspicious tissue is removed and examined (while you are still under anesthesia). This technique is called a frozen section and it provides basic information about whether there is cancer. If your examined tissue is found to be cancerous, then further surgery is done immediately. This procedure is seldom recommended today.

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