Madge from Portarlington, Victoria, Australia asked:

Can having a needle biopsy on a malignant breast lump cause cancer to spread?

Needle biopsy diagram

If a breast lump happens to be malignant, can a needle biopsy cause the cancer to spread through the blood stream?

Our answer

While there is always some risk associated with needle biopsies, a biopsy is unlikely to cause cancer cells to move beyond the cancer itself. If it did, cells are more likely to seed along the needle track. Needle biopsy is less likely to cause cells to spread locally or enter the bloodstream. In any case, where a biopsy is positive, treatment such as surgery or radiation and hormone or chemotherapy usually follows quickly to reduce the chance of the cells spreading to other parts of the body (metastasis). Based on current research, there is no evidence of an increased risk of cancer spreading or increased mortality in patients who have a needle biopsy.

This page was last updated on: June 30, 2014
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