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Can Breast Biopsy Spread Cancer

Why Is It Important To Get A Recommended Biopsy

Can My Needle Biopsy Spread Breast Cancer?

A biopsy is often the best way to definitively say whether or not you have cancer. Other tools, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging , can tell the doctor if an area looks suspicious. But in most cases, the only way to make a definitive cancer diagnosis is to perform a biopsy and look at those suspicious cells under a microscope. Many biopsies are performed with imaging guidance, called image-guided biopsies, where tools like ultrasound or computed tomography scans are used to help locate areas of concern and obtain biopsy material.

Sometimes, a biopsy reveals that the suspicious area contains only benign, or non-cancerous, cells. This might mean you do not need treatment, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Other times, a biopsy can tell the doctor how aggressive a cancer appears to be and what the extent of the disease may be. This refers to a cancers stage and grade. A biopsy can also explain what type of cancer cells are inside the tumor. All of this information helps determine the best course of action for treating the cancer.

What Happens During A Breast Biopsy

Breast biopsies are straightforward procedures and dont require an overnight stay in the hospital or clinic, Flanagan says, but your exact experience will vary based on the type of biopsy you receive.

During ultrasound- and mammogram-guided biopsies, youll lie either on your back or side. After applying local anesthesia to numb your breast, your doctor will locate the abnormality and then insert the needle.

You can expect to hear a loud click several times when were actually taking the sample, Flanagan says. Well move the needle around inside to sample different parts of the lesion and get about four to eight samples in total.

After theyre done taking samples, theyll also leave behind a tiny titanium marker clip, about 1 to 2 millimeters in size. These clips help them identify the exact spot the sample came from so doctors can identify it later. If you dont need further surgery, the clips will remain in place indefinitely.

The needle biopsy procedure itself only lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, but your entire appointment might take about an hour.

An MRI-guided biopsy takes a bit longer and requires you to remain in a very specific position while the doctor locates where the abnormality is in your breast.

Lying face down on a special padded table think a massage table with openings for your breasts as well as your face youll undergo a scan on the MRI machine. Expect to hear loud whirring sounds as the equipment works inside the enclosed tube.

Can A Biopsy Cause Cancer To Grow Faster

Mayo Researchers Find Cancer Biopsies Do Not Promote Cancer Spread. JACKSONVILLE, Fla. A study of more than 2,000 patients by researchers at Mayo Clinics campus in Jacksonville, Florida, has dispelled the myth that cancer biopsies cause cancer to spread.

What are the risks of a biopsy?

Depending on the biopsy procedure, possible complications include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Puncture damage to nearby tissue or organs.
  • Skin numbness around the biopsy site.

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Can A Tumor Biopsy Or Surgery Cause Cancer To Spread

Medically reviewed by Thanh U. Barbie, MD

Theres little reason to worry that a biopsy or other surgical procedure will allow cancer cells to escape and spread within the body, specialists say.

A common patient concern is that biopsies may cause microscopic cells from cancers to metastasize to other parts of the body, says Thanh Barbie, MD, a breast surgeon in the Susan F. Smith Center for Womens Cancers at Dana-Farber. However, medical evidence supports that this is unlikely, as most cancer cells that get displaced into the surrounding environment will likely be cleared by the surrounding immune cells.

In fact, a study of more than 2,000 patients carried out by Mayo Clinic scientists dispelled the myth that cancer biopsies cause disease to spread. The researchers showed that patients who have biopsy procedures to confirm their diagnosis and determine the cancers stage had a better outcome and longer survival than patients who did not have a biopsy.

Learn More:

Biopsies are incredibly valuable for the patient, as having a definitive cancer diagnosis is important in determining and planning the correct treatment for the patient, adds Barbie. And if benign disease is found, a patient may be spared from an unneeded surgery. The potential gain from biopsies outweighs the risks, which are commonly limited to discomfort at the biopsy site and bleeding.

How Can A Needle Biopsy Miss Breast Cancer


A needle biopsy can miss breast cancer if the needle takes a sample of tissue or cells from the wrong area or if theres a problem with the sample.

Even when samples are taken from the correct area, false negative results can occur if the pathologist misinterprets the tissue or cells as benign when in fact, cancer is present.

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How Cancer Can Spread To Other Areas Of The Body

Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system . There they can start to grow into new tumours.

Cancers are named according to where they first started developing. For example, bowel cancer that has spread to the liver is called bowel cancer with liver metastases or secondaries. It is not called liver cancer. This is because the cancerous cells in the liver are cancerous bowel cells. They are not liver cells that have become cancerous.

Matched Subgroups For Comparison

Patients who were diagnosed in the 1970s either received treatment with preoperative or postoperative radiotherapy or underwent surgery alone . Because only postoperative radiotherapy was used in the 1990s, the sample from the 1970s included only those who underwent surgery alone or surgery plus postoperative radiotherapy to achieve an optimal match of the 2 patient cohorts. Among the treatments used during the 1990s, we selected surgery alone and surgery combined with postoperative radiotherapy for all 219 patients to avoid confounding effects of adjuvant chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Because mammography screening results in earlier detection , we registered the tumor size of each patient. We observed differences in size distribution between the CNB and FNAB cohorts only in tumors that measured > 30mm in greatest dimension. Because of this finding, we excluded tumors > 30mm from the study. In total, after considering tumor size, there were 181 patients in the FNA cohort and 203 patients in the CNB cohort .

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What Is Stage Iv Breast Cancer

Stage IV is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to distant parts of the body beyond the breast. This means it possibly involves your organs such as the lungs, liver, or brain or your bones.

Breast cancer may be stage IV when it is first diagnosed, or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread.

Main Types Of Breast Biopsies

Do Biopsies spread Breast Cancer? – Dr. Nanda Rajaneesh
  • Surgical biopsy
  • Core-needle biopsy
  • The type of breast biopsy recommended by the doctor may be determined by the appearance of the concerned region, as well as the size and location of the tumor in the breast.

    Following the biopsy, a pathologist examines tissue for changes under a microscope. The pathology report determines whether cancer exists.

    Surgical biopsy

    A surgical biopsy is often performed under local anesthesia or after intravenous administration of drugs that make you drowsy.

    The surgeon makes a one to a two-inch incision in the breast and extracts some or all of the suspicious tissue along with some healthy surrounding tissue.

    If a lump is seen in mammography or ultrasound but is not felt, a radiologist may implant a small wire to mark the site for biopsy.

    Core needle biopsy

    A local anesthetic is used to perform a core-needle biopsy. A hollow needle is inserted into the breast by the doctor, and a little quantity of suspicious tissue is removed. A small marker may be implanted within the breast by the doctor. It denotes the location of the biopsy.

    Core-needle biopsies are often performed by radiologists or surgeons utilizing specialized imaging equipment.

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    What Types Of Breast Biopsies Are There

    While all breast biopsies have the same purpose to remove a sample of breast tissue so it can be reviewed for cancer there are two main kinds: needle biopsies and excisional biopsies.

    Needle biopsies are generally performed by a radiologist, who inserts a needle into your breast to remove a sample of the abnormal breast tissue, called a lesion.

    Most people start with a core needle biopsy, the most common breast biopsy procedure, which involves a large needle and a spring-loaded handle that quickly removes cylindrical samples called cores. Depending on the size and location of your lesion, your doctor might suggest a fine needle aspiration biopsy instead, which uses a thinner needle and syringe to draw the breast tissue out, although these are exceedingly rare.

    Radiologists will also use various imaging tools to help guide them during the procedure and make sure theyre placing the needle in the right spot.

    Needle biopsies can either be done under ultrasound guidance or stereotactic guidance, the word we use for mammogram guidance, Flanagan explains. Sometimes you might need an MRI biopsy, and thats if theres an abnormality that cant be seen on an ultrasound or mammogram.

    Excisional biopsies, on the other hand, are performed in an operating room by a breast surgeon, who can remove a larger sample. But, generally, your doctor will attempt a needle biopsy first before resorting to surgery.

    Breast Biopsy And Histological Evidence Of Spread

    10 papers addressing this subject were reviewed with an overall patient number of 3643.

    Although recurrence at the site of a needle biopsy is uncommon, there is nevertheless evidence of seeding of tumour cells from the primary neoplastic site into adjacent breast tissue. Hoorntje et al found needle tracks in 22 out of 64 excised specimens of patients who underwent 14-G needle biopsy and surgery on the same day. Tumour-cell displacement along the needle track was seen in 11 of these. Thereafter, they attempted to excise the entire 14-G needle track in 13 consecutive cases. Needle tracks were visualised in 11 of these and displaced cells were seen in 7. The time interval between core biopsy and surgical excision was 21 days . They did not consider excision of the needle track to be feasible as a routine measure but advised radiotherapy for in situ and invasive carcinomas after conservative surgery.

    Can tumour cells become displaced into the blood stream at the time of biopsy?

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    Biopsies For Breast Cancer

    To know for sure if you have breast cancer, you will need a biopsy. Biopsies show if there are cancer cells in a small tissue sample or in a tumor that was taken out by surgeons.

    In most cases, SCCA breast health specialists get a sample of tissue using a small needle under precise image guidance. This can mean using ultrasound, mammography and MRIimaging. If core biopsies do not give your care team clear results, you might need a surgical biopsy.

    After diagnosis, most people will need surgery to take out their breast tumor. We may do more tests on the tumor as well as nearby lymph nodes to see if cancer has spread there .

    SCCA pathologists will study and test your tissue samples to learn about your specific disease. This matters so your team can choose the treatments that will work best for you.

    Metastatic Breast Cancer Survival Rate

    Biopsies in lung cancer diagnosis process

    Although this form of cancer isnt curable, the good news is that it is very treatable. In fact, recent developments in treatment mean that people with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis can have a better quality of life. The five-year survival rate after diagnosis for people with stage four breast cancer is 29%, according to the American Cancer Society .

    Dr. Eleonora Teplinsky, head of breast medical oncology at Valley Health System, says: We have made remarkable strides in breast cancer in the last decade. New drugs keep getting approved. Were seeing improved survival. People are able to live their lives, work, travel, and be with their families.

    If youve recently received a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, then you may well feel frightened and overwhelmed. Those feelings are completely valid and normal. Your health care provider will be able to walk you through treatment options and provide information on emotional support for you and your loved ones.

    Below, Dr. Teplinsky explains everything you need to know about metastatic breast cancer, including symptoms and how its diagnosed.

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    Breast Cancer Staging And Lymph Nodes

    After an initial cancer diagnosis, youll need to know if it has spread beyond the primary tumor. If you have enlarged lymph nodes, your doctor may be able to perform a needle biopsy. Otherwise, the lymph nodes can be checked when you have breast surgery.

    Your doctor will assign a clinical stage based on:

    • a physical exam
    • imaging tests
    • a biopsy of the tumor

    After surgery, youll have more detailed information from the breast tissue and lymph nodes. This information helps provide the pathological stage.

    Lymph node involvement is a key factor in staging breast cancer. In the TNM staging system:

    • T is for tumor size
    • N represents lymph node involvement
    • M is for metastasis

    Heres a closer look at what to know about cancer cells and lymph node involvement.

    Other things that can influence breast cancer staging include:

    • Tumor grade. This has to do with how abnormal the cancer cells appear under a microscope. The higher the grade, the more aggressive the cancer.
    • Biomarker tests. The cancer cells will be checked for certain receptors, such as estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 . All of these can help fuel the growth of cancer cells in the breast.

    All these factors are combined to determine the stage.

    Breast cancer staging

    Breast cancer has four stages. When lymph nodes are involved, its at least stage 2. Metastatic breast cancer is stage 4.

    Most Biopsies Dont Show Cancer

    Although a biopsy can be scary, most breast biopsies in the U.S. dont show cancer .

    Still, a biopsy is needed to know whether or not something is breast cancer.

    If breast cancer is found, it can be treated. With standard treatment, most people with early-stage breast cancers have a good prognosis .

    The main types of biopsies are:

    A core needle biopsy is the standard and preferred way to diagnose breast cancer. In rare cases, a surgical biopsy may be needed for diagnosis.

    A needle biopsy uses a hollow needle to remove samples of tissue or cells from the breast.

    A pathologist studies these samples under a microscope to see if they contain cancer. If they do, the pathologist will do further tests to learn about the cancer. This information helps you and your health care provider plan your treatment.

    Needle biopsies can be used to study a:

    • Lump that can be felt
    • Suspicious area that can only be seen on a mammogram or other imaging test

    There are 2 types of needle biopsies:

    Learn more about talking with your health care provider.

    There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.

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    Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms

    When it comes to the signs and symptoms associated with metastatic breast cancer, theres no one size fits all. You may have vague symptoms like nausea or unexplained weight loss. In fact, some people do not have any symptoms at first and depending on where your cancer has spread, you might experience different symptoms.

    If your cancer has spread to your bones, you may experience swelling or bone, neck, back, or joint pain. Headaches, nausea, seizures, and dizziness are all linked with brain metastasis. Confusion, vision changes, personality changes, and loss of balance may also be a sign that cancer has spread to the brain.

    Shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or a dry cough may indicate lung metastasis. Pain or swelling in the belly, a loss of appetite, nausea, itchy skin, and jaundice are linked to liver metastasis.

    Its important to note that if you experience these symptoms, you shouldnt automatically assume that you have metastatic breast cancer or that breast cancer has spread. You may experience them for many other reasons including dehydration, stress, and even the common flu. Its so important to keep paying attention to your body, and if youre at all worried, then reach out to your health care provider. They should be able to talk you through any symptoms youre having and run some tests and scans if needed.

    What Do The Results Mean

    Breast Cancer Needle Biopsies Spreading Cancer, Expert Debunks Myth

    Doctors can gain a lot of information by examining the tissue samples from a biopsy.

    If the biopsy finds breast cancer cells, it will also show:

    • what kind of cancer it is
    • if it is hormone receptor-positive

    This information can help doctors and patients to develop treatment plans that will address individual needs.

    If the breast tissue is normal, or it shows that an existing lump is not cancerous, the person may still need more tests to confirm that cancer is not present or to help the doctor to monitor the breast tissue over time.

    review of the effectiveness of stereotactic breast biopsies published in 2011 notes that it is highly accurate and sensitive.

    This makes it very useful for determining whether or not a suspicious area in the breast is cancerous.

    A stereotactic breast biopsy, like all medical procedures, will involve some risks.

    • It is not suitable during pregnancy as radiation can be harmful to an unborn baby.
    • It may be difficult to carry out if the person has small breasts.
    • There may be some pain, although over-the-counter pain relief medication usually helps.
    • In a small number of people fewer than 1 percent a collection of blood, known as a hematoma, can develop where the biopsy was done.
    • There is a 1 in 1,000 chance of developing an infection due to the incision.
    • In rare cases, the biopsy needle can go through the chest wall and cause complications.

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