February 15, 2018
New study evaluates need for biopsies after breast cancer treatment
BY Lany Kimmons
In an analysis of more than 120,000 women diagnosed with and treated for early-stage breast cancer, researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center determined the rate of additional breast biopsies needed for these patients during their follow-up care.
This is the first comprehensive, nationwide population-based study to examine the need for breast biopsies performed during follow up after treatment for invasive breast cancer.
Research and data help physicians counsel women about breast cancer recurrence rates, and how often cancer in one breast develops in the second breast. However, in a thorough review of the literature, no data offered clues about how often a patient who’s had breast cancer treatment will require a biopsy, explains Henry Kuerer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Breast Surgical Oncology, the study’s corresponding author.
“This is a genuine concern for patients. Many feel very anxious over the future need for biopsies and the potential for another diagnosis,” explains Kuerer. “Women will often choose a mastectomy rather than have the fear and stress associated with future biopsies or another cancer diagnosis.”
To gather information that could shed light on the need for follow-up biopsies, the researchers analyzed two national databases. They looked at 41,510 breast cancer patients in MarketScan (the national database of patients with private insurance, age 64 years and younger), and 80,369 breast cancer patients in SEER-Medicare (patients age 65 years and older).
The overall incidence of breast biopsy five and 10 years after surgery was 14.7 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively in the MarketScan cohort, and 11.8 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively, in the SEER-Medicare cohort. Of the patients who underwent a breast biopsy, 29.8 percent in the MarketScan cohort and 23.2 in the SEER-Medicare cohort underwent subsequent cancer treatment.
“This information is something I can use daily when discussing breast cancer treatment options,” said Kuerer. “The important message is that the rate of biopsy for patients is relatively low and the overwhelming majority of the biopsy results will be benign and not require further treatment.”
Read more about this study in the MD Anderson newsroom.