Wide Core Needle Biopsy of the Breast (WCNB)

The doctor has advised that you have a wide core needle biopsy of the breast (WCNB) because an abnormality has been found in your breast. The majority of these abnormalities are benign and present no health risk to the patient, but it is important that we find out exactly what the abnormality is in your case. The WCNB procedure is a simple method of obtaining a sample of the breast tissue which can then be looked at under a microscope to find a diagnosis. 

The WCNB can be carried out using either x-rays or ultrasound to pin point the area of the breast to be biopsied. The doctor will discuss with you which is the best method for you. 

This procedure will enable a small sample of breast tissue to be sent to the Pathology department to be examined under a microscope and provide a diagnosis for your doctor.

Are there any alternative procedures?

Vacuum assisted breast biopsy – this test removes a larger sample of breast tissue using a vacuum method.  The doctor will decide with you which is the best method in your case.

How do I prepare for a breast biopsy? 

Most people do not need any special preparation before having a WCNB carried out.

You must let staff know if you are taking a blood thinning medication such as warfarin or clopidogrel, or if you are taking daily aspirin. 

In these circumstances you will be advised by the doctor of the correct preparation before you are given an appointment for this procedure.

What will happen during the test?

The procedure should not be painful. You will be given an injection of local anaesthetic, there will be some stinging at first but after this the area will become numb. The biopsy needle makes a loud clicking noise when the biopsy is taken, the doctor will let you hear this noise before taking the biopsy so you are not surprised by it. 

You will feel some pressure on your breast as the biopsy is taken and staff will check regularly that you are comfortable and not feeling pain. The doctor may take several biopsies from the area. This is nothing to be concerned about and is normal practice.

Yu must let staff know if you are taking a blood thinning medication such as warfarin or clopidogrel or if you are taking daily aspirin.  In these circumstances you will be advised by the doctor of the correct preparation before you are given an appointment for this procedure. 

This is a simple procedure and there are no known serious risks or complications associated with it. 

Occasionally the sample taken will not provide a diagnosis e.g. the sample may not contain any of the tissue that the doctor wants to look at, there may not be enough breast tissue to test, or the results of the laboratory tests may be uncertain. In this situation the doctor will discuss the options available to you.

What will happen after the procedure?

After the procedure the nurse will apply a dressing to the biopsy area, this can be removed after 24hours.

You may bath and shower as usual, any discomfort you have following the procedure can be relieved by wearing a firm supportive bra and taking mild pain relief such as paracetamol, unless you have an allergy to this medicine. 

Please do not take aspirin as this may cause more bleeding and bruising.

Most patients feel fine after the procedure and are able to resume normal activities. However we would recommend that you avoid strenuous exercise for at least 24 hours following the biopsy. If possible it is best to go home and put your feet up and relax for a few hours after the procedure. 

If the area becomes inflamed or you are concerned please contact the Breast Unit for advice on: 

0191 4453747 Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm 

Out of hours please contact NHS 111 

If you have any feedback please contact the Superintendent Radiographer on 0191 445 3775

How will I get my results?

This will depend on how you were referred for your breast biopsy.

You may be given an appointment before you leave the hospital to return to the breast clinic for your results, or you may have an appointment sent in the post to see your consultant for the results.

Please feel free to ask staff if you have any concerns about how you will receive the results of your biopsy.

Data Protection

Any personal information is kept confidential.  There may be occasions where your information needs to be shared with other care professionals to ensure you receive the best care possible.

In order to assist us to improve the services available, your information may be used for clinical audit, research, teaching and anonymised for National NHS Reviews and Statistics.  

Further information is available via Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust website or by contacting the Data Protection Officer by telephone on 0191 445 8418 or by email ghnt.ig.team@nhs.net.