Stress of waiting for breast biopsy results may adversely affect women's health

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Washington, Feb 24 (ANI): The anxiety of waiting for breast biopsy results may put women at increased risk of adverse health effects, according to a new study.

The study led by Elvira V. Lang, M.D., associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, revealed that women experience considerable stress while waiting to undergo breast biopsy and while waiting for the results.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 Lang.

The researchers aimed to establish a biochemical marker to assess the physical effects associated with the stress of extended waiting for a final diagnosis after breast biopsy.

For the study, they used cortisol samples collected from the saliva of 126 women during an earlier clinical trial on patient stress during biopsy.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland and is often referred to as the "stress hormone."

"Cortisol helps us fight acute stress by adjusting blood pressure, blood sugar and immune response in a good way when needed. But when stress becomes chronic, cortisol secretion either goes into continuous overdrive or dries up, leaving the immune system vulnerable and other body functions less well adapted,' said Lang.

The women participants in the study had to undergo large-core breast biopsy and their diagnosis was disclosed one to six days after the procedure.

Salivary cortisol samples were collected on cotton swabs on the day of biopsy and each of the four days following biopsy.

During the period in which the samples were taken, the women learned whether their biopsy results were benign (non-cancerous), malignant (cancerous) or uncertain.

By the fourth day after biopsy, 16 patients had learned they had cancer, 37 patients had benign findings and 73 patients had an uncertain diagnosis, because their results had not been communicated yet or they required further diagnostic procedures.

It was found that cortisol secretion for the women with uncertain results was significantly different than that of the women with benign results and highly similar to secretion levels in the women with malignant results.

Scientists believe that the findings will encourage faster analysis and communication of biopsy results.

They have recommended that women should speak to their doctors about communication procedures before undergoing breast biopsy.

Lang said: "Women should ask who will communicate their results to them and how long it will take to receive them. Then they should schedule the biopsy accordingly, taking into account delays over weekends and holidays."

The study has been published in the journal Radiology. (ANI)

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