Dr. Taylor Riall, associate professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and a lead investigator for the study said many women in Texas with an abnormality on a routine mammogram or a lump in a breast end up having a surgical biopsy to find out whether the breast abnormality is malignant.
This traditional method removes the mass via surgery to obtain a definitive diagnosis of cancerous or non-cancerous. However, if the mass is benign, the woman had surgery unnecessarily, Riall, the senior author, said.
Since 2001, national expert panels have recommended the first course of action for women with breast lumps or masses should be minimally invasive biopsy, Riall said.
Minimally invasive biopsies use ultrasonographic or X-ray guidance, with either a fine needle or preferably a "core tissue extraction" needle. These biopsies do not require surgery or anesthesia and leave little to no scarring, Riall said.
The investigators performed an analysis of Texas Medicare data from 2000 to 2008 of more than 87,000 breast biopsies.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, found only 40 percent of the women studied ended up having breast malignancies.
Thousands of women in Texas had surgery just to find out they did not have cancer, Riall said.