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Do Biopsies spread cancer?

MagsMacMagsMac Posts: 4
edited March 2020 in Diagnosis & Appointments

On the day I was told I had cancer and was going to have my breast removed, I had a biopsy. In fact, it was a triple biopsy.

Why was the biopsy necessary when they already knew it was cancer? And if it was to determine what cancer type it was, surely, they could do all the testing they wanted to do on the tumour when they removed it from my body? Why disrupt it while it's still IN the body? A core biopsy needle is big enough for a grain of rice to pass through. It introduces a channel to the tumour from which cancer cells can spread.

I remember feeling very nauseous that evening after my biopsy. As though something was floating around in my system. Before the Doctors interfered with me, I had been walking around with an 8cm tumour in my breast and feeling fine.

Now, after a double mastectomy, lymph nodes removed, chemo & rads, I have metastatic cancer in my spine. I would like an expert to convince me that this cancer did not spread from that biopsy.



  • Blanka_CBlanka_C Posts: 406 Community Admin

    Hi @MagsMac,

    Apologies you haven't received a reply to your question. Just checking how you're doing?

    We have the lovely @LizzyB73 Oncology Specialist Nurse on board who might be able to help you xx

  • LizzyB73LizzyB73 Posts: 112 Oncology Specialist Nurse



    I am so sorry that you now feel the biopsy you had has contributed to your cancer spreading.

    It would be very difficult for me, without knowing exactly all the facts of your diagnosis and results to make a comment on this one.

    All I can see is that the triple assessment which does include biopsy is totally gold standard care for the diagnosis of breast cancer. The biopsy result also can start to help to determine which treatment would have been the most suitable for you.

    You mentioned that you had your lymph nodes removed so I am assuming that you had some cancer cells in them as well initially? The presence of cancer cells within lymph nodes does then mean that the chances of spread to other organs or bone is much higher.

    I can understand that you need an answer but this is a very difficult question which may be better directed to your oncologists or breast care team

    Please take care

    Liz 💕

    Liz Bradley
    Oncology Specialist Nurse | Oncology Service Manager @ Springfield Hospital
  • MagsMacMagsMac Posts: 4

    Thanks-a-million Liz, for getting back to me.

    Yes, I have tried asking some Consultants but usually get fobbed off with a 'politician's answer', i.e. that it's normal procedure, blah, blah, blah. I don't think they expect to be questioned by patients.

    Just to give you more food for thought...

    Regarding the detection of cancer cells in lymph nodes. What are lymph nodes for? Doesn't our lymphatic system remove the bad stuff from our bodies? If so, why is it such a shock to find cancer cells there? Perhaps they're in the process of being flushed out?

    Also, as cancer treatments like chemo are not given straight after surgery, there is plenty of time to test the tumour AFTER removing it from the body (which they do anyway). Why they must risk disrupting it while it's still in the body is illogical to me.

  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,425 ✭✭✭✭✭


    Hi Mags

    I am really sorry to read your story and that you now find yourself with cancer elsewhere. I can only imagine how difficult that is to live with.

    I am not an expert in any way. I was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and prior to diagnosis, had a biopsy done in my armpit. I do remember how painful it was and I didn't feel great afterwards. I am not sure if part of this was due to stress and anxiety around the unknown of whether I had cancer. I have wondered previously how the dr's determine the order of treatment etc, ie chemo, surgery which order? it varies so much from patient to patient. I guess this is due to individual necessity and circumstance. I didn't have a biopsy of the breast itself, and I started treatment before surgery. I was started on chemotherapy immediately, as I found out later it was an agressive type of cancer and needed immediate action, surgery came later.

    The cancer I had did not show up in any mammogram or ultrasounds, hence a biopsy, but this was almost by chance. I was in the ultrasound room and the dr was saying how she couldn't see anything, 'no 99.9 % sure you don't have cancer'. It was only when I said well what is this under my arm then, that she decided to do a biopsy. Even then, she was saying, no, it doesn't look like it, explaining in great detail how it wasn't! I left and went home rejoicing that I didn't have cancer!

    Well that changed! That biopsy saved my life, once pathology got hold of it.

    Thankfully I didn't see that particular consultant again, otherwise I'd have had a few words to say. But even after the pathology results showed cancer was there, they still didn't have a specific place other than breast and lymph nodes, it took MRI'S, more ultrasounds to identify precise location.

    When I was told they found it in my lymph nodes, my first thought was that's the worst thing to hear because of the cancer spreading through them. But the nurse said 'let's hope they've done their job'. I took from that that they are our bodies first line of defence. I might be wrong, Liz (@LizzyB73 ) please correct me! Thankfully for me, they had done their job and the CT scan showed no further spread. But it was a very scary and terrifying time in those days.

    My thought are with you, especially in these current days and weeks we find ourselves living in. If you would like to chat at any time, you are most welcome to here. The community is full of very friendly, supportive, people.

    Take care,

    Lou x

  • MagsMacMagsMac Posts: 4

    Hi Lou,

    My God, your story is fascinating!! There was nothing routine about your experience - you went through a lot and thank God you're here to tell the tale.

    And, yes, that's very interesting what the Nurse said about the lymph nodes. It adds weight to what I've been thinking.

    You also brought up another very good point: the order of treatment. Chemo or surgery first. I've thought about that. In my case, my lump was so big (8cm) and my breast had visibly changed and had all the hallmarks of cancer (shrunken breast, inverted nipple, 'orange peel' skin). Trust me, there was no biopsy needed!! I happily told them at the time to remove both breasts. (And this was 10 days before the biopsy result came back).

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope you're doing well now ;-)

    Mags x

  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,425 ✭✭✭✭✭


    Hi Mags,

    I am doing well thank you! Recovery was slow, and I have been left with some mobility issues including feet and bones problems. Some of this is due to the meds I am on, and some I am sure to do with the chemo.

    But they are minor things in the grand scale of everything. I now try to live each day as best as I can. I found swimming after my treatment which I completely love, having previously always been scared of the water all my life. Obviously at the moment I am unable to go swimming, so my daughter's and I are doing PE with Joe Wicks every day. It is really great fun and works!! Haha! You really know you have done it! 😄

    I hope you can stay safe from the Coronavirus and continue to have all the support you need.

    Lou x

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