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Originally published March 16 2009

Stress while Awaiting Biopsy Results Adversely Affects Health

by Reuben Chow

(NaturalNews) The entire process of undergoing conventional medical testing for cancer can, by itself, be a very traumatic and health-damaging experience. This was affirmed by a study recently published in the journal Radiology, which found that the stress and anxiety arising from waiting for one's breast biopsy results can have tangible adverse effects on one's state of health.

About Cortisol

Made by the adrenal gland, cortisol is a hormone which is part of the human body's response to stress; it is thus often called the "stress hormone". By helping to adjust factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and immune response, cortisol helps the body to deal with acute stress situations. However, in cases of prolonged chronic stress, the secretion of cortisol goes haywire, either from being overworked or from ceasing to occur altogether; this causes the immune system to become vulnerable and the body to be less adapted to handle stress.

Details and Findings of Study

The study team had looked at the cortisol samples from saliva belonging to 126 women who had taken part in a previous study which examined the effect of biopsies on patient stress. These women went through large-core breast biopsy and were given their respective diagnoses several days later. On the day the biopsy was performed and for each of the following days after that, samples of their saliva were collected.

By the time it was 4 days after the biopsy procedure, 16 of the women had found out they had cancer, while another 37 of them discovered they had benign lumps. The remaining 73 ladies, however, still remained uncertain, either because they had not yet heard about their test results, or because they needed to go through further testing.

The researchers uncovered an interesting finding - waiting was as stressful as being diagnosed with cancer itself. Women in the "uncertain results" group experienced cortisol secretion which was markedly different from those cleared of having cancer, and instead was very much similar to the secretion of the ladies who were diagnosed with the disease.

"When women express how taxing it is to have to wait for results, the medical establishment may dismiss their feelings as psychological. We were able to show that this state of not knowing the diagnosis goes along with biochemical changes which can have adverse effects on wound healing and the immune system," said Elvira V Lang, MD, an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, radiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the leader of the study.

The study team concluded that their "results indicate the need for more rapid communication of biopsy results". That is certainly an important point, and it should be taken seriously. Persons who have chosen to undergo biopsies should discuss the process with their doctors before undergoing the procedure. In particular, the schedule of communicating the test findings, accounting for delays such as weekends and holidays, should be discussed. But this should not detract from another important issue - the safety and necessity of biopsies in the first place.

Discussing the Potential Dangers of Biopsies

According to the American Cancer Society, a whopping 1.2 million breast biopsies take place each year in the United States. 80% of these procedures do not result in cancer diagnoses. Statistics on the total number of biopsies performed each year were not readily found online, and one can only imagine how staggering that figure could be. While this procedure may save some lives, no one seems to be keeping score of the harm it is doing.

Medical doctors will often tell their patients that biopsies are safe, painless, covered by insurance and very important, because they are necessary for finding out as soon as possible if cancer is indeed present. If so, the doctors would emphasize the importance of prompt commencement of "proven" therapies. Unfortunately, very little, or at least not enough, is said about the dangers of biopsies.

Biopsies, without doubt, potentially trigger the spread of malignant cancers. On his website, researcher and writer Karl Loren mentions 47 scientific reports which discussed cancer and biopsies, with many of them describing the spreading of cancer because of a biopsy. He also mentions another 73 studies, most of which "describe a real danger of cancer spreading throughout the body just because of a biopsy", he states.

Here is what one source which he quoted had to say: "Additionally, doctors and researchers have noted that biopsy of a cancerous tumor can cause spreading or 'seeding' of cancer cells along the path or track made by the biopsy needle. This could cause a cancerous condition which had been confined solely to the prostate capsule to spread into surrounding tissues, making a serious health concern even more problematical."

Further, we now also know that the stress induced by the waiting part of the entire biopsy procedure is considerable. And stress, as is clearly accepted, is a major causative factor for cancer and other serious diseases. In addition, it must be mentioned that radiation from X-rays and CT scans are cancer-causing, too.

Adding everything together, questions must surely be asked of the different levels at which conventional cancer diagnostic methods are themselves contributing to the disease epidemic. However, with billions of dollars being reaped each year from mammograms, CT scans, biopsies and the like, is anyone doing the serious asking?


Waiting For Biopsy Results May Adversely Affect Health (

Elvira V Lang, Kevin S Berbaum and Susan K Lutgendorf. Large-Core Breast Biopsy: Abnormal Salivary Cortisol Profiles Associated with Uncertainty of Diagnosis. Radiology 2009;250:631-637.

About the author

Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth. His website, All 4 Natural Health, offers a basic guide on natural health information. It details simple, effective and natural ways, such as the use of nutrition, various herbs, herb remedies, supplements and other natural remedies, to deal with various health conditions as well as to attain good health. His other websites also cover topics such as depression help, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as cancer research and information.

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