Health Research Can a biopsy increase the risk of cancer spread?

Dr Barak Bar-Zakai discusses the risk of a biopsy is minor and the implications on a patient's life.

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  play (Herzliya Medican Center)
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A new American research shows the risk of a biopsy is minor, and emphasises its benefits in diagnosing and treating Cancer.

A biopsy is a tissue sample taken from the body, to examine more closely through microscopic and laboratory equipment to perform analysis and receive more information about the extracted cells. A doctor will usually recommend this procedure when they suspect an area of a tissue to show signs of a tumour.

For many years, it was a common belief among patients and even some doctors that this procedure can cause the spread of cancerous cells around the body. A new research, conducted by Mayo Clinic in Florida, USA, with over 2,000 participating patients, challenges the truth in these beliefs.

All participating patients were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; however, it is safe to assume that conclusions and results apply to other cancer types as well, since the same biopsy method is used to diagnose almost all malignancies.

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy is a procedure in which a small needle in inserted into a tissue to extract tissue particles. Medical literature indicated several cases, which caused the suspect that this procedure did cause cancerous cells to spread through the body. The study's senior investigator, Dr Michael Wallace, claims that only one or two cases of the millions of biopsies conducted in the US annually, arouses these suspicions.

They reason why a biopsy is so important, Wallace explains, is that in the overwhelming majority of cases it does not carry a risk, and in fact allows doctors to match their patient with the appropriate treatment. In many cases, the information provided by the biopsy enables developing a suitable radiation or chemotherapy treatment plan that leads to a better result, and can even avoid the need for a surgery altogether.

The importance of this research when it comes to pancreatic cancer is even bigger, since the surgery treating this type of cancer is a complex procedure, which carries great risks and implications on a patient's life. Additionally, other researchers have shown in the past that 9% of the patients who have had gone through pancreatic cancer surgery were suffering from a benign illness and did not have to go through the surgery at all.

Dr Barak Bar-Zakai is a senior surgeon at Herzliya Medical Center, specializes in hepatobiliary surgery of the liver and pancreas. Graduated from medical faculties in New York City, USA and Paris, France. Member of the Israeli Association for Surgical Oncology and the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery.

Content brought to you by Herzliya Medical Center.

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