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Aug 11, 2011

Healthy Living demystifies getting a biopsy

In this issue of Healthy Living, we tackle one of the silent killers of women across the planet; that’s breast cancer. Even considering taking tests is a hurdle that many women find hard to overcome. There are two types of biopsies offered locally: the traditional open or surgical biopsy and the needle biopsy. So general Surgeon, Philip Burgess, discusses the symptoms, treatment and demystifies the process of getting a biopsy.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Once you’ve found a lump in your breast the process of getting a diagnosis can be a bit trepidatious especially when a biopsy is recommended. General Surgeon, Dr. Phillip Burgess, helps us to understand the process and importance of the breast biopsy in diagnosing breast cancer.

Dr. Philip Burgess, General Surgeon

Philip Burgess

“If the patient detects a lump or the physician detects a lump after that usually we’d send the person for a mammogram regardless of the result of a ultrasound or mammogram that a biopsy must be done.  It is essential, it is actually indispensable part of managing abreast lump because that is the only way for us to know what it is. No mammogram, no ultra sound, no MRI that can prove yet whether or not a lump is cancerous or non-cancerous and that is the essential thing for us to know.”

There are several kinds of breast biopsy techniques; two forms offered in Belize include the traditional open or surgical biopsy and the needle biopsy.

Dr. Philip Burgess

“A surgical biopsy was traditionally done, you have a breast lump you come to the doctor and they organized for you to have the lump essentially removed. That involves cutting the breast, usually under local anesthesia or sometimes under general anesthesia or sedation b/c it is essentially a major procedure. Open the breast, get down to the lump, remove the whole lump or if it’s a big lump we send a portion of it off to the lab.  The needle biopsy you have the fine needle and the core needle biopsy. The problem with fine needle biopsy is that you need to have little bit more expertise in terms of the pathology in the lab and it cannot give you a definitive diagnosis if it is invasive cancer. So this is why we have the core needle biopsy which is now the standard of care for diagnosing breast lumps internationally. That involves using a needle that has a hallow tip and taking portions of the lump itself rather than having to remove the whole lump. We take a small nick in the skin and take portions of the lump and send them off to the lab.”

Even with the availability of a less invasive procedure, people can become very unnerved with the procedure. Dr Burgess addresses the common fears women tend to have.

Dr. Philip Burgess

“One of the fears is definitely I’m recommended for biopsy: oh my god, I have cancer. That is not true. we must dispel that rumor because once you have the ultrasound or mammogram or even just a clinical exam and you recommended for a biopsy many patients will go to and do various things that take away from the diagnosis and delay the time for diagnosis and that has an effect on the management of the cancer. Another one is that the biopsy is a painful procedure that it will deform the breast by doing the core needle biopsy specifically we have a lower risk of complications, we have much less trauma to the breast we are there for the patients get back to their normal activities back to work much sooner. This needle is the width of a rice grain you will hear; essentially the needle is mounted on a gun so you’ll hear a click every time there’s a biopsy. And usually we’ll put the needle in you’ll hear that click. Some patients might feel a sharp pain sometimes just feel pulling and tugging on the breast and then we would take usually three or four samples.”

It is important to remember that not all breast biopsies turn out to be breast cancer. Nonetheless, if it is cancerous, an early detection will improve treatment options.

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3 Responses for “Healthy Living demystifies getting a biopsy”

  1. roxanne says:

    Great topic!! thanks, Dr. Burgess.

  2. Bzean Queen says:

    Usefull information, what is the cost, why can’t NHI cover something like this that is prevetative medicine.

  3. Kim Lumsden says:

    Very informative Philip

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