Can a Tumor Biopsy or Surgery Cause Cancer to Spread?

0

There’s little reason to worry that a biopsy or other surgical procedure will allow cancer cells to escape and spread within the body, specialists say.

“A common patient concern is that biopsies may cause microscopic cells from cancers to metastasize to other parts of the body,” says Thanh Barbie, MD, a breast surgeon in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “However, medical evidence supports that this is unlikely, as most cancer cells that get displaced into the surrounding environment will likely be cleared by the surrounding immune cells.”

In fact, a study of more than 2,000 patients carried out by Mayo Clinic scientists dispelled the myth that cancer biopsies cause disease to spread. The researchers showed that patients who have biopsy procedures to confirm their diagnosis and determine the cancer’s stage had a better outcome and longer survival than patients who did not have a biopsy.

“Biopsies are incredibly valuable for the patient, as having a definitive cancer diagnosis is important in determining and planning the correct treatment for the patient,” adds Barbie. “And if benign disease is found, a patient may be spared from an unneeded surgery. The potential gain from biopsies outweighs the risks, which are commonly limited to discomfort at the biopsy site and bleeding.”

The National Cancer Institute has also addressed this concern in a statement on Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions:

“The chance that surgery will cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body is extremely low. Following standard procedures, surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading during biopsies or surgery to remove tumors. For example, if they must remove tissue from more than one area of the body, they use different surgical tools for each area.”

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-442-9599

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.

Latest Tweets

Dana-Farber @danafarber
Catch Me if You Can: Finding Cancer Cells that Hide in Plain Sight: https://t.co/SBccqKKMmY #CarTCellTherapy https://t.co/eswJsnPRwq
Dana-Farber @danafarber
Curious about clinical trials? We dive into the details with Dana-Farber's Geoffrey Shapiro, MD, PhD:… https://t.co/458AapWety
Dana-Farber @danafarber
Our Yawkey Center for Cancer Care features 500+ works of art by artists like Andy Warhol. Take a self-guided tour:… https://t.co/ptx63cF853

Republish our posts on your blog

Interested in sharing one of our stories on your blog? Feel free to republish this content! We just ask that you credit Dana-Farber, link to the original article, and refrain from making edits that change the original context. Questions? Email the editors at insight_blog@dfci.harvard.edu.