Biopsy and Breast MRI

Written by Geri Ann Higgins

Modesty goes out the door as you begin the diagnostic phase.

Top on, top off, top on, top off.



It was like trying to get beads during Mardi Gras, but, obviously, way less fun.

Instead of beads, you get pink gel ice packs.

Biopsy: The core needle biopsy determines if what appeared on your breast imaging is benign or malignant. It also determines type and grade of tumors.

I had no clue what to expect with the biopsy. Yes, I got the brochure. Yes, I read it. No, I still didn’t comprehend how it would feel or how I would feel, emotionally and physically. Thankfully, I had great support from the entire team. A couple of them were focused on going from one room to the other to ensure exact location of tissue extraction, and another told me that her main focus was on supporting me.

The tissue sample removals were not painful, as they had numbed the area.

gel packs

Not fun… but, definitely comforting and cooling. :)

Unfortunately for me, I had to have more taken than normal due to a large area of suspicious tissue. Most people have much less taken and move through the whole process smoothly and uneventfully.

After a while, I started to get dizzy, clammy and nauseous. I was calmly instructed to tighten my abdomen, legs and arms. This tightening technique quickly helped reorient me to successfully finish. I have had this type of reaction over the years with difficult blood draws (small veins, ugh!), so as I was leaving, I asked the people in the room what happened. Someone explained that I was basically having a vasovagal response (beginning to feel faint).

Every patient is unique. I later learned that what I experienced was quite rare. But, it made me curious to learn more about the simple tightening technique and if it could help me in future situations.

What helped: Most importantly, the team-approached care, knowledge and calm demeanor were reassuring and healing.

Also, since the tightening was so helpful, I went and looked it up afterwards (described further below).

What I wish I knew at the time: The simple tightening technique. Apparently, my physical reaction is not a common one. However, I’m actually glad it happened again that day, because I learned first-hand how to stop it/slow it ahead of time. I had never been given that information during the previous experiences, so I’m actually grateful! I have since used the tightening ahead of and during some situations. Most notably throughout my extensive pre-surgery prep and return blood draws.

Something to try:

  • The tightening technique! Practice simultaneously crossing your legs, tightening your arms, bringing your navel in towards your spine and clenching your rectal muscles. Hands can also be in fists. Try this a few times. Another approach is to lie back and stick your legs up in the air. Click HERE to read more about why this technique works. When you are in a stressful situation, try this to slow down/counteract the fear reaction. You may not ever need it, but it certainly won’t hurt you to know about it. Find more examples of techniques HERE.

Breast MRI: The Breast MRI provides better “intel” for the breast surgeon, so there are no surprises on the day of surgery.

What helped: On my way to the Breast MRI, I received a text from a friend (a breast cancer survivor) recommending PADDING, all in caps. I didn’t understand, so she clarified, “Each boob hangs, so padding for your sternum is helpful. I also could have used some under each hip. You feel okay at first, but 45 minutes is a long time on that machine.” She was spot on.

What I wish I knew at the time: The technologists are not allowed to tell you anything they either see or don’t see. I was trying to “read” her face/reaction/between the lines and I really shouldn’t have. Your provider is the only one who shares the results with you.

Some things you can do or think about right now:

  • Ask for an IV nurse, if you have small veins or a history of difficult needle insertions.
  • Find a hydration balance (enough to help with vein plumping, but not too much where you’ll have to go to the bathroom during the MRI)
  • Ask for extra padding for your sternum and hip areas
  • Guided meditation (Radiology may have this available for you to listen to beforehand)
  • Fearful of being in a tight space? Focus on making your exhale longer than your inhale. The longer exhale relaxes your nervous system.

 Next Up: Birdwatching

Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.

Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at

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