How Do Biopsies Cause Cancer to Spread?

During a needle biopsy, a tumor may need to be punctured several times...this repeated penetration may spread cancer cells into the track formed by the needle, or by spilling cancerous cells directly into the bloodstream or lympathic system. MORE -->

Dangers of Prostate Biopsies

How Do Biopsies Cause Cancer to Spread?

During a needle biopsy, a tumor may need to be punctured several times to retrieve an amount of tissue that's adequate enough to be screened. It is believed that this repeated penetration may spread cancer cells into the track formed by the needle, or by spilling cancerous cells directly into the bloodstream or lympathic system.

A well-known study from the John Wayne Cancer Institute of Santa Monica, CA focused on 663 women with Breast Cancer. Half of the women underwent breast biopsies, while the remainder had their tumors completely removed with no biopsy taking place. The study found that those who had a needle biopsy were 50% more likely to have cancer spread into the sentinel node (armpit lymph node) versus the women who had their tumors surgically removed.

In July 2004, The British Medical Journal published an article by a group of Australian surgeons, cautioning against the risks of needle biopsies of the liver due to the serious potential for needle track seeding of the tumor.

Imagine learning that the spread of your Cancer was due not to a natural progression of the disease, but to the biopsy which was intended to be a diagnostic aid? Not only that, complications from a biopsy may lead to additional aggressive treatments and procedures which otherwise might have been avoided had the tumor been left confined to its origin.

Inflammation caused by biopsy may be involved in prostate cancer metastasis

A report published online on March 19, 2007 in the journal Nature described the findings of University of California San Diego researchers that the inflammation associated with the immune system's attack on prostate tumors could be involved in their metastasis. It has been hypothesized that genetic changes within the cancer cell result in metastasis, but this does not explain metastases that occur years after the primary tumor.

Working with a mouse model of prostate cancer, professor of pharmacology in UCSD's Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Michael Karin, PhD, and his colleagues discovered a signaling pathway that increased prostate tumor metastases. They found that a cytokine called RANK ligand, produced by inflammatory cells, initiates a chain reaction in which a protein kinase known as IKKa is activated to enter the cancer cell nucleus and reduce the expression of the antimetastatic gene Maspin.

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"An excellent inverse correlation between IKKa activation and Maspin production was detected, such that advanced prostate cancer cells contain high amounts of activated IKKa in their nuclei and express little or no Maspin," Dr Karin stated. "Maspin is a very potent inhibitor of metastasis; in a patient with metastasis, cells have found a way to turn off Maspin, which may depend on invasion of the tumor with RANK ligand-producing cells that activate IKKa."

"Our findings suggest that promoting inflammation of the cancerous tissue, for instance, by performing prostate biopsies, may, ironically, hasten progression of metastasis," Dr Karin observed. "We have shown that proteins produced by inflammatory cells are the 'smoking gun' behind prostate cancer metastasis. The next step is to completely indict one of them."

Research team member Steven L. Gonias, MD, PhD, added, "This study helps explain the paradox that, in certain types of malignancy, inflammation within a cancer may be counterproductive."

Other Biopsy Risks and Complications

The spread of cancer cells is not the only potential risk associated with a biopsy, particularly for prostate patients. During a needle biopsy, a device is inserted into the rectum, and a needle is shot through the thin lining that separates the colon and the prostate. There are many tiny ducts in the prostate which are damaged each time the needle goes in. As a result, the ducts may become blocked with scar tissue and other matter, and this can inflame an existing infection, such as Prostatitis or BPH. Naturally, if you undergo more than one biopsy, the damage to the ducts is dramatically increased.

Infections are common and worse. The Associated Press reported on June 2, 2006, "MILWAUKEE — More than 22,000 veterans who underwent prostate biopsies at veterans' hospitals across the country are being warned that improperly sterilized equipment may have exposed them to deadly viruses".

The unsettling truth is that many men are never quite the same after a prostate biopsy. After the procedure, you may experience decreased ejaculation, rising PSA numbers, and even difficulty with erections or impotency. There have even been documented cases of men developing Peyronies Disease—a condition in which a lump causes the penis to bend permanently. Biopsy patients are at risk of experiencing all of these complications …even if the test results ultimately turn out negative!

Don't like these results? What other alternative is available?

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