AIMS: To determine whether the recommended methods for the handling of breast excision biopsy specimens from screening patients cause more laboratory work than those used for non-screening patients. METHODS: All breast excision biopsy specimens from 1990 were identified. Ninety one came from patients identified during the prevalent round of breast screening. These were compared with 127 from non-screening patients operated on by the same surgeon. The workload in terms of initial blocks taken, cases which needed extra blocks or other additional work, and the time taken for delivery of slides to the pathologist were assessed. RESULTS: The screening cases required significantly more initial blocks than the non-screening cases (8.03 v 4.95; p = 0.000001). When looking at the malignant diagnoses this difference was maintained (7.74 v 6.02; p = 0.00014). CONCLUSIONS: Excision biopsy specimens from screening patients require more laboratory work per case than those from non-screening patients. The reasons for these differences lie in the nature of the specimens and their subsequent diagnoses, and in the initial indications for biopsy.
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