Skip to main content

Core Biopsy

What is a core biopsy of the breast?

A radiologist uses a needle to take tissue samples of an area of your breast. The needle is guided by a computer-controlled needle guide on the mammography equipment or by an ultrasound machine. (A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in reading medical images including ultrasound and x-rays.)

Why do I need to have a core biopsy?

A core biopsy is done when the radiologist finds an abnormality on your mammogram or ultrasound that cannot be explained. The biopsy is a way to find out what the abnormality is. It is done by taking some tiny pieces of tissue from the breast.

Do I need to do anything to get ready for a core biopsy?

No. You should eat a normal breakfast. Wear a bra that gives you firm support to wear after the biopsy. Someone may come with you and wait for you in the waiting room. After the procedure is done, you may return to work if you wish. Some find it easier to take the rest of the day off work. 

What will happen when I arrive for my core biopsy?

When you arrive in the department the technologist will review the procedure with you. The radiologist answers your questions and gives you a consent form to sign. 

The actual procedure takes around 30 minutes, but you can expect to be in the Breast Imaging Department for at least 1 hour.  

The procedure:

The technologist positions you sitting or lying down. Your breast is then placed in a special compression device if the mammogram machine is being used. The time that you are compressed can vary depending on the case. You will be lying down if the ultrasound machine is being used. 

The radiologist will inject freezing into the breast biopsy site. Breast tissue samples will then be taken. 

Once your biopsy is completed, the technologist will apply pressure and an ice pack to the site of the biopsy. This is to stop any bleeding. It also lessens any swelling or bruising.

When will I get the results?

The tissue samples are sent right away to the laboratory. The pathologist examines them there. In 7 to 10 business days, the results of your core biopsy will be sent to your healthcare provider's office.

What will happen when the results come back?

  • Your healthcare provider will talk about the results with you.

  • If the core biopsy shows the area to be benign (no cancer), a re-check mammogram or ultrasound of the breast will be done in 6 months. 

  • If the sample shows the area to be malignant (cancer) your healthcare provider will refer you to see a breast surgeon. This surgeon will talk about options with you.

  • Sometimes a biopsy may show something that is not cancer but needs more assessment by a breast surgeon. (This is rare, but if it happens you will be referred to see a breast surgeon.)

  • Sometimes the biopsy itself needs to be repeated to get more information.

Instructions after returning home?

  • Leave the dressing (bandage) in place and keep it dry for 3 days after your procedure. For pain, take acetaminophen if needed, or talk with your pharmacist. 

  • If you have any other concerns, contact your healthcare provider. If you do not have one or they are not available, call NS Telecare at 811.


Back to Top

Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program
603L-7001 Mumford Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3L 2H8


Book your screening mammogram by calling:


Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm