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What To Expect: Wire Localization Biopsy of the Breast

What to Expect Wire Biopsy Post ImageIn June 2019, I had a diagnostic mammogram that came back suspicious. I was sent for a breast MRI that determined that I needed further evaluation and was told to have a wire localization biopsy.

On the day of the procedure, there were no special instructions. The first part of the procedure was done in the X-ray area of the hospital. The nurse sent me into a changing room where I was only wearing a patient gown and my leggings. I was taken into what looked like a mammogram room. The X-ray technician took several pictures and marked my breast with special tape prior to the doctor coming in. When the doctor entered, she gave me an injection to numb the site. I have very dense breasts, so I had to have 2 injections. It was very painful for me. After the area was numb, the doctor had me sit in a chair and they moved the chair over to the mammogram machine. The doctor took another X-ray to pinpoint where the needle needed to go.

A nurse held me still while the doctor placed a hollow needle through the top of my breast and then inserted the wire with a hook on the end through the center of the needle. I did feel a lot of pain when the needle and wire were inserted. After the wire was inserted another X-ray to make sure that the wire was in place. After verifying it was properly in place, they removed the hollow needle and taped the wire to the top of my chest. It was sticking out about 4 inches. The nurse gave me an ice pack to help with the pain. I was then taken by wheelchair to the pre-op surgery waiting area by a hospital employee. My husband was allowed to come with us and stay with me until I was taken in for surgery.

When I arrived at the pre-op area of the hospital, a nurse came in and asked a ton of questions as they prepped me for surgery and took my vital signs. I was in quite a bit of pain, but I was told that they could not give me anything for pain prior to surgery; so, I was only able to get more ice packs. I was originally scheduled for surgery 2 hours after the wire was inserted, but it ended up being 5 hours after insertion because my surgeon was stuck in another surgery. During the wait time, I was allowed to have visitors. My surgeon came in right before surgery and did a mini physical on me, where she listened to my heartrate and asked more questions. She talked to me again about the surgery and asked if I had any questions. A man then arrived to transport me to the operating room, I said my goodbyes and then he rolled me off. I was wheeled in the same bed that I was in to the pre-op area.

When I arrived in a hall outside of the operating room, the anesthesiologist came up to me. She asked more questions and explained that I would be put to sleep for the procedure. Next, I was wheeled into the operating room – it was extremely bright. I was asked to slide myself over to the operating table. There were 3 nurses in the room, and they explained everything that was going on. They fastened me to the table using three straps around my body, from my legs to my stomach. After connecting all of the heart monitor wires, they placed a warm blanket over my body. It was very cold in the operating room. Then, the anesthesiologist started talking to me and said that she was going to put the medication in the IV to make me fall asleep. She then placed a mask over my face and told me to count backwards from 10. I don’t think I made it past 5

Photo credit: Philippe Spitalier

From what I gathered; an incision was made in my breast where the wire was sticking out of my skin. The surgeon went along the wire and separated the breast tissue from the wire until she reached the end of the wire to pinpoint the cancerous cells. During the surgery, the doctor made an incision under my breast about 4 inches long to remove the tissue that ended up being about the size of a quarter. 

The next thing I remember was waking up in the post-op area. There were maybe 10 beds all in a row with only a curtain separating the patients. My nurse was taking care of two patients. The nurse took my vitals and frequently asked about my pain level. My husband was allowed to come in and sit with me right away in a chair beside my bed. I was also asked if I wanted crackers, water, or Sprite. My pain level was manageable and so after about 30 minutes, they let me sit up in bed. About 30 minutes after that, my surgeon came in and explained that they removed the area with cancer, but that they would send it to pathology and hoped to have the results at my follow up appointment. 

After 2 hours of being in the post-op area, the nurse came over and had a list of instructions for me about going home. I was informed about the pain medication I was prescribed and what to expect for the next few days. I had stitches, but I was told that they would dissolve. She explained how to take care of the dressings over my stitches. She also informed me that my follow up appointment with the surgeon was scheduled for 2 days later, at which I should get my biopsy results. There also was a number on the paperwork for an emergency if I should need it.

The days following the procedure, I was very sore. I used a prescription pain killer only once since I typically do not like how they make me feel. I alternated hot and cold packs to help with the pain, and made sure to sleep on my back propped up. I was not able to work for a week, and was told that I should avoid lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk while healing. I did not have drains, but my incision area oozed, and I had to put a new bandage on it at least once a day. I also had to wear a bra that had a closure in the front with no wires.

Two days after surgery, I had my follow up appointment with the surgeon. I ended up having a seroma, which is a water pocket in the breast. It was very painful and still showed up on my last ultrasound a couple of weeks ago. I was told that it would absorb into my body and has made my breast more tender. The doctor changed my bandage and gave me the results of the biopsy. I was then told to see a breast specialist that I would need to see every 6 months.

This procedure was done about 18 months ago and I still have breast pain when I exercise. I have gone to several doctors and all of them tell me this is normal to be experiencing pain especially with having dense breasts. I have asked this question to others that have had this procedure and they all tell me the same thing as well.

Nancy M.

Submitted on 2/18/2021

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.


  1. Jean McClean

    Sounds similar that I had. I remember a nurse covering the wire with a cone type paper cup. I called it my Madonna look. I am so sorry that you went with all that pain Nancy. They numbed me real good so I never felt the wire going in. I felt more pain when they injected something to see if I had lymph node involvement.
    I never knew what that was called (the wire thing)

  2. Marcia Hooker

    I have had this done twice. The first time was when they did my lumpectomy removing 2 areas of cancer. The wire was put in to help ensure the surgeon removed the cancer with clean margins. The second time was a surgical biopsy on my other breast for architectural distortion that showed no cancer cells present. It is a very uncomfortable procedure and you did an excellent job of describing the whole process. I did not have any complications but there was the mental anguish of course that accompanies having cancer.

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