Can Biopsies Spread Cancer?

Not every cancer situation lends itself to a biopsy.  But when it does, and your doctor suggests one, you may have a decision to make.  Is it in your best interest?  Are there risks?  For instance, can biopsies spread cancer?  This is important to know since many cancer patients opt for biopsies whether they are using conventional or alternative cancer treatments.

What is a Biopsy?

A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue from a tumor or other area for examination under a microscope.  There are many different types of biopsy procedures, including needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration, core biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, sentinel lymph node biopsy, and punch biopsy.  The two main reasons your doctor might suggest a biopsy are:  (1) To get a tissue sample  of your cancer for better diagnosis in order to help pick the most effective drug therapy, or  (2) To prove you have cancer before undertaking a risky treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Are There Risks?

This is the critical question and yes, there can be risks involved with any biopsy procedure.  Unfortunately, one of the riskiest is the biopsy procedure for prostate cancer, which of course is one of the most common cancers.    For prostate biopsies, an instrument goes up through the rectum and then needle sticks are punched through the colon wall into the prostate gland.  Up to 30 needle sticks may be required and this can cause a potentially lethal blood infection due to the transmission of e-coli or other bacteria.  Though rare, I personally spoke to a man who said he almost died from a routine needle biopsy into the prostate that caused just such an infection.

But even more worrisome, is the risk that any biopsy procedure could potentially spread the cancer.  This is a somewhat controversial issue and most oncologists will probably say there is little risk of spreading, or “seeding” the cancer.   However, one author by the name of Karl Loren, supposedly documented 73 cases of seeding from biopsies that caused metastases.  Apparently, this risk is more well-known than it would seem, since more than half a million American cancer patients are reported to seek medical treatment outside the U.S. simply to avoid having to get a biopsy.  Many of these Americans flee to the Hope4Cancer Institute in Mexico run by Dr. Antonio Jimenez.

I did not know what to think of this issue myself until I attended a cancer treatment conference years ago.  During one talk, I was surprised to hear the lecturer, an oncologist, talk about how needle biopsies can spread cancer.  To illustrate this, he projected a slide showing the scanned image of a woman’s breast.  A cancer mass was apparent inside the breast and a thin line was apparent going directly from the mass to the surface of the breast.  He explained that the thin line was a line of cancer cells that had leaked out as the biopsy needle was pulled back out of the breast.  His opinion as a cancer doctor was that biopsies can DEFINITELY spread cancer.

I have also now personally spoken with about half a dozen men over the years who underwent radical prostatectomies (surgical removal of the entire prostate gland) for prostate cancer caught early, were pronounced cancer-free, then 4 to 6 years later were surprised to be diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in their lymph system and bones.  At this point, they were pronounced incurable by conventional medicine.  Was it that the prostatectomies did not get all the cancer?  Or was it the needle biopsy required before the surgery that spread the cancer into the blood stream and lymph system?  Could it be that for these men and others like them that their cancer was localized to the prostate gland and that they would have been cured by surgical removal of the gland had they not had that biopsy procedure done?

Another thing to keep in mind is that biopsies have varying degrees of accuracy in assessing cancer.  In particular, for prostate cancer, there are many areas of the prostate gland that the needle punches cannot get to.  As a result, according to Dr. Mercola, a whopping “one-third of the men with initial ‘negative’ results for prostate cancer actually DO have prostate cancer that was missed by the biopsy.”

The bottom line is that, if you are facing a recommended biopsy procedure, you should probably carefully consider the importance of what your doctor can learn from that for treating you versus the risks of possible infection and possible seeding of the cancer.  Talk to your doctor about whether a biopsy is really needed and do more homework on the Internet.  It may be a difficult decision, but at least it would be an informed decision!

by Tanya Harter Pierce,  Author of OUTSMART YOUR CANCER