Women Having Unnecessary Surgical Biopsies

Needle is usually safer, cheaper way to look for breast cancer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2011 11:20 AM CST
Breast cancer cells in tissue culture.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – About 300,000 women each year undergo unecessary surgical biopsies to look for breast cancer when a much easier—and safer—needle biopsy would be better, a new study suggests. Surgical biopsies are the better option in certain cases, but doctors use it way too often, reports the New York Times. It's not only more expensive and more dangerous, but it can make the followup surgery—assuming cancer is found—more complicated.

“After a while you keep seeing this, you say something’s going on here,” says the director of the University of Florida's breast cancer program and the senior author of the study. (Read it in full here.) One possible explanation suggested by researchers: Needle biopsies are generally conducted by a radiologist, meaning the surgeon would lose the biopsy fee.

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