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Expertise vs. evidence in assessment of breast biopsies

Apr 01, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
The above is the rather scholarly title of a new study reported in a recent issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). The New York Times boiled down the findings to, “Breast biopsies are good at telling the difference between healthy tissue and cancer, but less reliable for identifying more subtle abnormalities.”

The JAMA article said, “Breast biopsies are performed in 1.6 million women in the United States each year and yield results ranging from benign to atypical hyperplasia to carcinoma in situ to invasive cancer, each with specific implications for subsequent management.”

In other words, the biopsy determines treatment, so it darn well better be accurate and exact. The study found, however, that participating pathologists were only able to “correctly” diagnose breast biopsies about 75 percent of the time.

The general reaction to the report is heralding it as a call to action to improve training and accuracy. And, we’d think, to increase the use of second opinions in those biopsies which fall into the gray-ish areas of diagnosis.

--Sarah Hagerty
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