Biopsy still most effective for diagnosing breast cancer, say researchers

In collaboration with the Press Association

Biopsies are still the most effective way to diagnose breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease who have abnormal test results, say scientists.

Women who receive abnormal findings from a mammogram or physical examination currently have to undergo a surgical procedure to determine whether they have breast cancer.

Only around one in five women with abnormal results are shown to have breast cancer, and a biopsy can be more distressing than new, non-invasive forms of testing such as MRI or PET scanning.

Researchers at the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) who are examining other forms of testing say that none are yet reliable enough to replace traditional biopsies, however.

"So many women today undergo biopsies only to learn they do not have breast cancer. Hopefully, non-invasive tests can continue to improve so that in the future, there will be a viable alternative to biopsy," said AHRQ D director Carolyn Clancy.

"But early and accurate diagnosis of breast cancer is crucial, and at this time, biopsies remain the most effective technique when mammography or physical examination reveals a potential problem."