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Pol J Radiol. 2011 Jan;76(1):25-9.

False-negative results of breast core needle biopsies - retrospective analysis of 988 biopsies.

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Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Maria Skłodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology, Gliwice Branch, Poland.



Breast cancer is the most common malignant neoplasm and the most common cause of death among women. The core needle biopsy is becoming a universal practice in diagnosing breast lesions suspected of malignancy. Unfortunately, breast core needle biopsies also bear the risk of having false-negative results.


988 core needle breast biopsies were performed at the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology, Gliwice Branch, between 01 March 2006 and 29 February 2008. Malignant lesions were diagnosed in 426/988 (43.12%) cases, atypical hyperplasia in 69/988 (6.98%), and benign lesions in 493/988 (49.90%) cases.


Twenty-two out of 988 biopsies (2.23%) were found to be false negative. Histopathological assessment of tissue specimens was repeated in these cases. In 14/22 (64%) cases, the previous diagnosis of a benign lesion was changed. In 8/22 (36%) cases, the diagnosis of a benign lesion was confirmed. False-negative rate was calculated at 2.2%. The rate of false-negative diagnoses resulting from a radiological mistake was estimated at 36%. The rate of false-negative diagnoses, resulting from histopathological assessment, was 64%. False-negative results caused by a radiological error comprised 1.5% of all histopathologically diagnosed cancers and atypias (sensitivity of 98.5%). There were no false-positive results in our material - the specificity of the method was 100%.


Histopathological interpretation is a substantial cause of false-negative results of breast core needle biopsy. Thus, in case of a radiological-histopathological divergence, histopathological analysis of biopsy specimens should be repeated. The main radiological causes of false-negative results of breast core needle biopsy are as follows: sampling from an inappropriate site and histopathological non-homogeneity of cancer infiltration.


breast cancer; core needle biopsy; false negative results

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