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More Rapid Communication of Breast Biopsy Results Needed

Uncertainty regarding breast cancer diagnosis linked to biochemical stress

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Uncertainty while awaiting a final diagnosis following a large-core breast biopsy is associated with an abnormal salivary cortisol profile, indicative of biochemical distress, according to research published in the March issue of Radiology.

Elvira V. Lang, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues collected salivary samples from 126 women (aged 18 to 86 years) following a large-core breast biopsy. Diurnal cortisol slopes were assayed to gauge biochemical stress; a flatter slope was indicative of less desirable stress levels. Cortisol slopes were compared among women who were uncertain of a final diagnosis, women who knew they had cancer, and women who knew they had benign disease.

Women who were uncertain about their diagnosis had a significantly flatter cortisol slope (which is less desirable) compared with women who knew they had benign disease, the investigators found. However, the diurnal cortisol slope for uncertain women was similar to women who knew they had malignant disease, the researchers report.

"Our study findings led us to conclude that not only how but also when biopsy results become available to the patient is important to avoid the dysregulation of cortisol secretion," the authors write, adding that because dysregulation of cortisol secretion is linked to adverse immune defense and wound healing, "women scheduled to undergo additional surgery in particular would benefit."

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