Choosing the Right Biopsy

Women learn early on that detection is the best prevention for breast cancer. Monthly self breast exams, annual doctor exams and mammograms are vital steps to staying healthy.

If a lump is discovered or a mammogram appears abnormal, the biggest question in a woman’s mind is probably “Is it cancer?”

But apparently, women need to be asking their doctors another question: Does it require a surgical biopsy or a needle biopsy?

Needle biopsies can be performed with a local anesthetic and are less invasive, according to the American Cancer Society. Surgical biopsies, on the other hand, entail an incision, stitches, sedation or anesthesia and a scar.

Medical guidelines say about 10 percent of biopsies should be surgical ones, but a recent study in Florida found the rate to be about 30 percent. The study, published in The American Journal of Surgery, considered more than 170,000 biopsies from  2003 to 2008.

Researchers concluded that more than $37 million could be saved annually if surgical biopsies accounted for only 10 percent. And thousands of women would be spared unnecessary surgical procedures.

Bon Secours now offers women facing a breast biopsy the option of having a minimally invasive procedure called a stereotactic biopsy. This new service offers women a diagnostically reliable alternative to open surgical biopsy or core needle biopsy.

What kind of biopsy is needed depends on several factors that a doctor considers, according to the American Cancer Society:

  • How suspicious the lesion looks
  • Its size
  • Its location in the breast
  • How many lesions are present
  • Other current medical problems
  • Personal preferences

Learn More about Breast Cancer Treatments

Sources: The American Journal of Surgery, The American Cancer Society, United States Department of Health and Human Services.

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