In a consensus paper published in October's Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), 23 leading surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and oncologists say minimally invasive needle breast biopsies and sentinel node biopsies should be performed more routinely than they currently are. In the case of breast biopsies, the experts say open surgical biopsies should almost never be done, though experts estimate that nearly a third of the 1.7 million breast biopsies performed in the nation are still done this way.
New technology has changed the face of breast cancer," said consensus panel chair Melvin J. Silverstein, M.D., professor of surgery and Henrietta C. Lee Chair in Breast Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medicine. "We can do things much less invasively than ever before, and doctors and women need to take advantage of these advances whenever they can."
The American Cancer Society estimates that 211,240 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die from the disease this year.
The panel concluded that minimally invasive needle breast biopsy is "the procedure of choice for image-detected breast abnormalities" and keeps the majority of women with non-cancerous findings out of the operating room. For those who do have breast cancer, needle biopsies allow for better pre-operative planning for breast surgery.
A needle biopsy is performed through an incision about the size of a match head, requires no stitches and can be done in a doctor's office. According to the American Cancer Society, about eight of every 10 breast biopsies performed turn out to be benign.