Preoperative needle biopsy improves the quality of breast cancer surgery

Ted A. James, John L. MacE, Beth A. Virnig, Berta M. Geller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Percutaneous needle biopsy has the potential to provide a preoperative diagnosis of breast cancer, which helps to optimize surgical planning; however, its use remains an area of unexplained clinical variation. The purposes of this study were to perform a statewide assessment of diagnostic biopsy methods for women diagnosed with breast cancer and to evaluate the impact of biopsy method on the quality of breast cancer surgery. Study Design: Vermont cancer registries were combined with Medicare data to identify women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1998 and 2006. Demographics, margin status, surgical evaluation of axillary nodes, and total number of operations were correlated to biopsy method. Results: Percutaneous needle biopsy (PNB) was the initial biopsy method in 713 (62.8%) patients, and it increased significantly over the study period. Patients living in urban settings were more likely to receive PNB (70.6%) than patients living in rural areas (57.5%). Breast cancer surgery performance metrics including margin status, number of operations, and performance of axillary evaluation significantly favored PNB over open biopsy (OB). Conclusions: The quality of breast cancer surgery as measured by initial margin status, total number of operations, and axillary evaluation improved with preoperative PNB; however, the use of PNB varied considerably. The potential impact of PNB on the quality of patient care and health care costs is substantial. Emphasis should be placed on understanding the barriers to the use of preoperative PNB and developing strategies to expand its use in the management of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-568
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • CMS
  • CPT
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Current Procedural Terminology
  • NCH
  • OB
  • OP
  • PNB
  • VCR
  • Vermont Breast Cancer Surveillance System
  • Vermont Cancer Registry
  • hospital outpatient
  • open biopsy
  • percutaneous needle biopsy
  • utilization data from physician


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