A study over 2,000 patients by researchers has dispelled the myth that cancer biopsies cause cancer to spread.
The study found that the patients who received a biopsy had a better outcome and longer survival than patients who did not have a biopsy. The study was conducted at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida.
A number of patients and even some physicians believe that a biopsy can cause some cancer cells to spread.
“This study shows that physicians and patients should feel reassured that a biopsy is very safe,” said the study’s senior investigator Michael Wallace, professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida.
The researchers studied pancreatic cancer, but the findings likely apply to other cancers because diagnostic technique used in this study — fine needle aspiration — is commonly used across tumour types, Wallace added.
Fine needle aspiration is a minimally invasive technique that uses a thin and hollow needle to extract a few cells from a tumor mass.
“We do millions of biopsies of cancer a year in the US, but one or two case studies have led to this common myth that biopsies spread cancer,” Wallace explained.
Biopsies offer “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,” said Wallace.
For the study, the researchers examined 11 years (1998-200) of data of over 2,000 patients.
Meanwhile, he said, Surgery for pancreatic cancer is “a very big operation,” and “most people should want to make sure they have cancer before they undergo surgery.” As per a study, 9 percent of patients who underwent surgery because of suspected pancreatic cancer actually had benign disease.
Wallace pointed out, “Biopsies are incredibly valuable. They allow us to practice individualized medicine — treatment that is tailored for each person and designed to offer the best outcome possible.”
The study appeared online in the journal Gut.