Florida women may be at risk of breast cancer misdiagnosis

According to a nationwide study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women in Florida and around the country may be receiving inappropriate treatment for breast-related maladies such as cancer. The study, which tracked 115 specialists and 240 specimens, suggested that while pathologists are good at diagnosing cancer from biopsies, they may be less reliable in helping diagnose other potential breast problems.

Incorrect interpretation of the findings of a biopsy may lead to a medical mistake such as prescribing treatment where none is really warranted or withholding treatment when it is essential. The study reports that about one third of the biopsies in the study were misidentified as normal, and 17 percent more were misdiagnosed as cancerous. The odds of a given sample which was not actively cancerous but definitely abnormal being properly identified came to only about 50 percent or as probable one way or the other as a coin toss.

One breast abnormality the study covered beyond cancer is known as DCIS, a condition in which abnormal cells occur within the milk ducts. The study participants misdiagnosed 13 percent of these cases as less serious than they actually were, and another 3 percent were diagnosed as cancerous. The authors of the study suggest women should obtain a second opinion before undergoing medical treatment.

A doctor’s mistake based upon an improperly interpreted biopsy may result in unneeded medical treatment or lifesaving treatments being withheld. In such a case, an attorney might examine the test results and medical history of the client, as well as the experience and record of the doctor. The attorney may ask for a settlement on the patient’s behalf or take the case to court.