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Needle biopsy benefits outweigh risks.


Many people worry that needle biopsy procedures--such as those used to sample lung or breast tumors--could contribute to cancer spread or metastasis. Yet it appears that this worry is largely groundless, as recently reported in the New York Times. (1)

According to radiologist Dr. David Yankelevitz of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in New York, "With any biopsy of any organ, you do loosen some cells, and some do get into the bloodstream, but very rarely do they stick and implant. If you were causing Stage 1 tumors to spread by putting in a needle, you would expect the long-term survival would be lower, but in fact we found no difference at all." (1,2)

"The reason you do a biopsy in the first place is that you don't want to do surgery ... for a benign condition. A biopsy can reduce the chance of an operation for someone who doesn't need one, which is a much greater risk." 1A 1998 study found that among approximately 68,000 needle biopsies, there were eight metastases along the needle track, a rare risk that was deemed "random and unavoidable." (3)


(1.) Ray CC. Q & A: Needle Biopsy Risk. New York Times. March 27, 2007.

(2.) Wisnivesky JP, Henschke CI, Yankelevitz DF. Diagnostic percutaneous transthoracic needle biopsy does not affect survival in stage I lung cancer. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2006 Sep 15;174(6):684-8.

(3.) Ayar D, Golla B, Lee JY, Nath H. Needle-track metastasis after transthoracic needle biopsy. J Thorac Imaging. 1998 Jan;13(1):2-6.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:In The NEWS
Author:Wagner, Elizabeth
Publication:Life Extension
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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