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Epithelial displacement during breast needle core biopsy causes diagnostic difficulties in subsequent surgical excision specimens
  1. Sine Phelan1,
  2. Ann O’Doherty2,
  3. Arnold Hill3,
  4. Cecily M Quinn4
  1. 1South Dublin Rotation, Department of Histopathology, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr S M Phelan
    St Vincent’s University Hospital, 12 Mountbrook Stillorgan Road, Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland; sine.phelan{at}


Background: The use of needle core biopsy (NCB) as part of triple assessment for non-operative evaluation and diagnosis of breast lesions is now routine practice. Trauma to breast tissue during NCB may result in displacement of breast epithelium and may lead to diagnostic difficulty in subsequent excision specimens.

Methods: The cases of seven mammographically detected breast lesions in which epithelial displacement due to NCB was identified and caused problems in confirmation of tumour size, assessment of surgical margins, and interpretation of possible invasive carcinoma and lymphovascular invasion are reported here.

Conclusion: Previous observations that epithelial displacement is more likely to occur when the interval between NCB and surgical excision is short are supported.

  • CK IHC, cytokeratin immunohistochemistry
  • DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ
  • IDC, invasive ductal carcinoma
  • NCB, needle core biopsy
  • SLNB, sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • WLE, wide local excision

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  • Published Online First 5 July 2006

  • Competing interests: None.