Study Finds Women Are Likely Being Over- and Under-Treated for Breast Cancer

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Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are medical errors that occur more frequently than most people realize.

The Calgary Herald recently reported on a study that highlights this reality, specifically with regard to diagnosing breast cancer.

Participants in the study included 115 pathologists and three experts. The pathologists looked at 240 breast biopsy specimens, and the pathologists' diagnoses were compared with those of the three experts. One limitation of the study was that the pathologists, when uncertain about a biopsy, were not permitted to consult with colleagues.

Still, the authors of the study say the results should be a wake-up call for medical professionals and breast cancer scientists.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that abnormal, precancerous cells were correctly diagnosed by pathologists only about 50 per cent of the time. The pathologists misdiagnosed about 33 per cent of the cases as normal or not worrisome, while 17 per cent of the tissue samples were deemed to be suspicious or were diagnosed as cancer. Thirteen per cent of the samples were also mistakenly deemed suspicious when they were actually normal tissue.

While real-world situations do allow doctors to consult with colleagues, and patients can get second opinions, the study's findings suggest that many women are likely being over- or under-treated. Whether the treatment is too aggressive, or you're not receiving the prompt and potentially life-saving treatment you need, the effects on your health could be extremely serious.

At Gluckstein Lawyers, we understand the importance of prompt and accurate diagnosis, as well as appropriate medical treatment. To learn more about the legal issues surrounding these matters, please see our Toronto medical malpractice overview.



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