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Researchers Tout Needle Biopsy as Effective Cancer Detection Method

Doctors can assess whether a patient has breast cancer using a needle biopsy.

Should a woman find a lump in her breasts that concerns her, doctors must perform a biopsy to test whether the lump is cancerous. Doctors can complete the biopsy by creating a surgical incision that's a few centimeters long or use a needle. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that needle biopsies are not only effective at determining whether breast tissue has cancer, but that the procedure is also underused in the U.S. 

Excisional biopsy, the method that requires surgical incision, can be painful and take longer to heal than needle biopsies. Women who have the excisional biopsy and discover they have cancer must go back to the operating room to remove the tumor. A needle biopsy is not surgical, heals quickly and is less painful. 

Researchers note that patients who get excisional biopsies tend to do so because their doctor is inexperienced with needle procedures. The study highlights the importance of seeking exceptional medical care when breast cancer is potentially involved. 

"I think there's an opportunity for professional societies to define quality benchmarks to emphasize needle biopsy as an important measure of quality," Dr. Benjamin D. Smith, senior study author, told Reuters Health. 

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