Encouragement and reassurance for those with needle phobia needing a biopsy

I would really like to share my experience to give confidence to those with a needle phobia and who feel so afraid at the prospect of having a biopsy. Please don’t avoid the biopsy, and please make a plan to tackle the fear you may have. YOU CAN DO IT!

I went through a cancer scare this summer, and it took me 100 days to find the courage to get a biopsy. I was extremely fortunate that the eventual biopsy result concluded that I had a fibroadenoma, but if it hadn’t been a fibroadenoma, then my delay at getting the biopsy could literally have cost me my life.

I have a severe needle phobia, although I can generally muster the courage to get a single injection by putting my mind around the idea that the actual experience will only last for a few seconds. However, when the consultant explained the procedure for a core needle biopsy on my very first visit to the breast clinic, it was quite different to what I had imagined, and as a needle phobe, it sounded too much to cope with and I simply refused to get one. At that moment, and for many weeks after, I was seriously prepared to let a potential cancer spread rather than to go through a biopsy.

It took me around 100 days to get the courage to have a biopsy. Some of the things I did to make the level of fear acceptable included: buying a large syringe, which I regularly touched my skin with, and watching one video from Dr Sandra Lee’s (aka Pimple Popper) YouTube channel every single day. I did NOT try to read blog posts or watch video accounts of other people’s experiences of biopsies in case they reported a bad experience.

You could also consider getting Valium tablets from your GP (although I personally haven’t found low level doses to have done anything for me - I’m not sure if stronger doses would work).

I took a tube of EMLA cream with me to my biopsy appointment, and I asked the nurse to apply it in the area she thought would be injected around 1 hour prior to the biopsy. They were more than happy to do this, and there is no interaction with the biopsy procedure or local anaesthetic.

AND … I can honestly say that the amount of pain I experienced was LESS THAN getting a COVID vaccine. The procedure was also incredibly fast. Probably just one minute between getting injected with the local anaesthetic and the core needle insertion. It’s really that quick, and I was left feeling so irritated that I had fretted and panicked for over three whole months to get it done. It’s truly a case of the anticipation being much worse than the actual event.

When I got home, I took one paracetamol as a precaution against any ensuing soreness, but I really don’t think I needed it. The site did feel somewhat sore and tender for a few days after, but again, I think by comparison with the COVID vaccine, the arm is much sorer following the vaccine than with the biopsy.

Of course, everyone’s biopsy experience will be different. The injection position and the number of samples taken will vary depending on where your lesion is. Some people with hard-to-find lesions will lie face down on a table that can take a sample from underneath the table.

Overall, the prospect of a biopsy can feel intimidating to everyone, as it’s likely an unfamiliar experience. However, those with a needle phobia will be dealing with both the fear of having cancer and the fear of their phobia. It can feel too overwhelming for the brain to deal with two extreme fears at once. It therefore might be a matter of time needed to process one fear before the other, however, do remember that you don’t have time to wait when it comes to cancer.

Thank you for sharing your experience .