Breast cancer

07 December 2009

Immediate biopsy often unnecessary

Immediate biopsy unnecessary for some breast lumps.

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For breast lumps that can be felt with the fingers but look benign on ultrasound, an immediate biopsy may not be needed, particularly for some young women, researchers report.Instead, the researchers write in the December issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, a checkup six months later would be fine for such "palpable lesions.""Many palpable lumps that are solid (not a fluid filled cyst) on ultrasound undergo either needle or surgical biopsy, even when they appear benign on imaging," Dr. Jennifer A. Harvey, who led the study, noted in an email to Reuters Health.She and colleagues at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, evaluated 375 "palpable lesions" detected in 320 women over six and a half years. After an average follow-up period of almost three years, just one of the lumps turned out to be cancer - that is, not benign -- Harvey said.Given how many biopsies would therefore turn out to be negative for cancer, "short-term follow-up is a reasonable alternative to biopsy" in these women, Harvey added in a statement accompanying the study.While the study suggests that waiting for a repeated ultrasound for six months is as safe as an immediate breast biopsy, "biopsy should be considered if the clinical exam is concerning or if the lump increases in size," Harvey said. Such a strategy, she added, "may reduce the number of biopsies that result in benign findings. There is also significant cost savings associated with using short-term follow-up rather than immediate biopsy."SOURCES: American Journal of Roentgenology, December 2009.


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Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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