Study Says Biopsies Are Safe

Cancer patients who had fine needle aspiration lived longer

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FRIDAY, Jan. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer biopsies do not cause the disease to spread, says a new study that dispels a common myth.

"This study shows that physicians and patients should feel reassured that a biopsy is very safe," said study senior investigator Dr. Michael Wallace, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

The study included more than 2,000 people with pancreatic cancer. Those who received a biopsy using a technique called fine needle aspiration lived longer and had better outcomes than those who did not have a biopsy.

"We do millions of biopsies of cancer a year in the U.S., but one or two case studies have led to this common myth that biopsies spread cancer," Wallace said in a clinic news release.

The findings in the Jan. 9 online issue of the journal Gut are likely to apply to other cancers because fine needle aspiration is used to biopsy many types of tumors, Wallace said.

In fine needle aspiration, a thin, hollow needle is used to extract cells from a tumor.

Wallace said that biopsies provide "very valuable information that allows us to tailor treatment. In some cases, we can offer chemotherapy and radiation before surgery for a better outcome, and in other cases, we can avoid surgery and other therapy altogether."

More information

The Radiological Society of North America has more about biopsies.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Jan. 9, 2015


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