New York: Dispelling the myth that biopsies cause cancer to spread, US researchers have shown that patients who undergo the procedure are likely to live longer than those who do not.
That a biopsy can cause some cancer cells to spread is a long-held belief by a number of patients and even some physicians.
"This study shows that physicians and patients should feel reassured that a biopsy is very safe," said the study's senior investigator Michael Wallace, professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida.
The researchers studied pancreatic cancer, but the findings likely apply to other cancers because diagnostic technique used in this study -- fine needle aspiration -- is commonly used across tumour types, Wallace added.
Fine needle aspiration is a minimally invasive technique that uses a thin and hollow needle to extract a few cells from a tumor mass.
"We do millions of biopsies of cancer a year in the US, but one or two case studies have led to this common myth that biopsies spread cancer," Wallace explained.
For the study, the researchers examined 11 years (1998-200) of data involving more than 2,000 patients.
The results showed that patients who received a biopsy had a better outcome and longer survival than patients who did not have a biopsy.
"Biopsies are incredibly valuable. They allow us to practice individualized medicine -- treatment that is tailored for each person and designed to offer the best outcome possible," Wallace pointed out.
The study appeared online in the journal Gut.