Triple Assessment of Breast Lump: Should We Perform Core Biopsy for Every Patient?

Cureus. 2020 Mar 30;12(3):e7479. doi: 10.7759/cureus.7479.


Introduction The triple assessment for a lump in the breast is standard practice and the robustness of assessment towards the diagnosis of breast cancer is crucial. The combination of the modalities, physical examination, imaging (mammogram and ultrasound), and fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) is more accurate than any modality alone. Aim To examine the combined and individual predictive values of physical examination (P), mammography (M), ultrasound (U), FNAC (C), with core biopsy (B) - triple assessment in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Methods To obtain the results of physical examination (P), mammography (M), ultrasound (U), FNAC (C), and core biopsy (B), we examined the records of 124 breast cancer patients seen between April 1, 2009, and March 30, 2010. To assess the diagnostic potential of the combination of the modalities (P, U, and M), we considered all cases with a score of 4 (probably malignant) and 5 (malignant) as positive for malignancy. All cases with a score of 3 (equivocal), 2 (benign), and 1 (normal) were considered negative for malignancy. For FNAC, a score of 1 (insufficient sample), 2 (benign), and 3 (atypia/probably benign) were considered. All the patients were diagnosed with breast cancer on excision biopsy. Among 124 patients, 12 were excluded, as they were unfit for intervention. Results The accuracy of physical examination (P) as confirmed by core biopsy (B) is dependent on the experience of the surgeon. It has limitations in younger women and smaller lesions. In our study, P has a positive predictive value (PPV) of 58.9% when compared with surgical biopsy, which is comparable with other studies. Our results showed PPV 66.1% and after an ultrasound scan, the overall radiological grading (M & U) gives a PPV of 81.3%, reflecting the important role of ultrasound scans. Our results showed the sensitivity of FNAC to be 73.2%. Core biopsy was diagnostic in 107 (95.5%) patients, making it a reliable tool. Our results confirmed that a combination of the modalities (P, M, U, R, FNAC) is more accurate than any modality alone. Conclusion When all the three modalities are positive for a diagnosis of malignant breast disease, surgical biopsy confirms the breast cancer diagnosis with a PPV of 100% and a sensitivity of 95.5%.

Keywords: breast cancer; core biopsy; triple assessment.