Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida have analyzed data and come to an important conclusion — pancreatic cancer patients who got a biopsy survived longer and had better outcomes than those who did not get one.
The researchers believe "the findings likely apply to other cancers because the diagnostic technique used in this study — fine needle aspiration — is commonly used across tumor types."
The worry has been that biopsies might spread cancer cells in patients already dealing with this devastating disease.
But it's important for us to look a little deeper at what was promoted in the news release.
According to Mayo, the research "has dispelled the myth that cancer biopsies cause cancer to spread."
That's a pretty big leap from "patients who received a biopsy had a better outcome and longer survival."
Indeed, Mayo itself notes in its press release that "a long-held belief by a number of patients and even some physicians has been that a biopsy can cause some cancer cells to spread. While there have been a few case reports that suggest this can happen — but very rarely — there is no need for patients to be concerned about biopsies…."
I'd like to toss a little caution into this equation.
It's important to recognize that Mayo is calling spread of cancer cells related to biopsies a myth.
But Mayo also points out that, indeed, a few, rare case studies have indeed shown the spread can happen. Something that actually happens, however rarely, is not a myth. It is real.
Patients should be made aware that cancer cells can indeed be spread during biopsy, but also be made aware of how rare the occurrence is and that survival and outcomes are better statistically for patients overall when biopsies are done. That allows patients to make fully informed decisions.
As you, the reader, read health-related stories, please keep an eye out for words that seem too good to be true; words like cure, myth, never, always, linked.
Beliefs do not always come true, even when good scientists hold seemingly commonsense, research-based views.
So please keep a wary eye when reading health-related articles and ask questions of your health provider to learn the risks and benefits — to make up your own mind.